“I wish he would just stop.” If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, you may have heard a close friend or family member express a sentiment along these lines, or maybe you’ve even said it yourself. It may seem mystifying, agonizing, or downright obvious: Why doesn’t he do the right thing and get his life back on track? Unfortunately, the solution is not that simple.
At a certain point, addictive behavior is no longer a voluntary choice. The medical definition of addiction is based upon this fact. While a person initially chooses to engage in potentially addictive behavior, repeated use can quickly begin to rewire the pleasure and pain pathways in a user’s brain, digging them into a pit of dependence that even their best intentions may not be enough to help them escape.
Current research shows more clearly than ever that addiction is not simply a failing of a person’s willpower or moral strength. It’s the result of a steady buildup in psychological, mental, chemical, and physical dependence upon an external substance whose very presence in the body becomes a requirement for a person to function normally. Wishing that your loved one would “just stop” or “snap out of it” is like wishing that he’d snap out of pneumonia.
Addiction is insidious. By the time you notice the significant behavior changes and other warning signs that your loved one may be struggling with chemical dependence, it may already be too late for them to break out of the cycle of addiction on their own.
It’s important to understand that your loved one is compelled to drink or use by a force larger and deeper than his rational mind. No matter how strong his willpower, no matter how earnestly he makes resolutions to change, no matter how many times he swears off drinking or using, he can’t rewire the pathways that addiction has formed in his brain.
Compulsive substance abuse is a medical disorder. It begins to take root from the very first time a person uses an addictive substance, and within only a short time can have a massive impact on a person’s behavior and thought processes.
You may mean well, but if you approach your loved one who suffers from addiction with the intention of convincing them to break their habits on their own, you may just end up pushing them further away into the isolation that addiction already encourages. Addiction can bolster feelings of being misunderstood, being alone to deal with this problem, and not having anyone trustworthy who could provide real help. If you want to break the cycle of addiction and get through to your loved one, come to them with understanding.
It may be a difficult conversation, but once your loved one sees that you realize the issue has grown beyond their control–even if they won’t admit it to you yet–they’ll see that you truly want to help them. Discussing treatment programs and rehabilitation centers is never fun, but it’s a necessary step towards taking practical action to lift your loved one up out of their compulsive behavior for good.
Our modern scientific understanding of addiction has grown tremendously in the last hundred years. We know now that compulsive substance abuse isn’t rooted in a moral failing or a psychological weakness; it’s a dangerous, stealthy disease that changes a person’s brain. Addiction can have roots in external factors such as family, history of addiction, underlying or concurrent mental disorders, and genetic predispositions. Understanding your loved one’s addiction means accepting that their actions come from a source external to their own choices.
It’s true that no addiction is born in a vacuum, and it’s likely that your loved one will have work to be done in the broader scheme of their life beyond recovering from chemical dependency. It’s important to remember that their current struggle with addiction is no longer something they have complete control over. If you want to help them break free, you should consider professional help.
A person may be able to make short-term improvements through sheer strength of will, but those changes probably don’t address the disorder of addiction at its source and, ultimately, are highly likely to lead to relapse or worsening dependency. Professional treatment centers and groups exist to solve these problems at the source so that your loved one can go on to live a clean, healthy life without the constant fear of relapse or overdose.
If someone you love is suffering from addiction, it’s vital that you understand their experience. Addiction is a dangerous disease that takes control of a person’s behavior. At a certain point, you can’t reason them out of it and the most helpful thing you can do to contribute to the recovery of your loved one is helping them get professional treatment. At Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, we provide the tools and resources for tackling the hard work of recovery that they’ll struggle with on their own. All your loved one has to do is take the difficult first step towards admitting that they need help. We meet them halfway and offer both immediate professional treatment and long-term guidance to help your loved one get sober, stay sober, and build a new life of personal success. Your loved one can’t do it alone–support them by taking action to get them the help they need. Call (800) 643-2108 to learn more.