The Disease of Addiction
Overcoming addiction is a challenge that often requires family and friend support while in an environment such as residential rehab, intensive outpatient, individual counseling, and group therapy.
The genes that people are born with, in combination with environmental influences account for about half of their addiction vulnerability. Additionally, gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders may influence risk for drug abuse and addiction.
Setting boundaries with someone in recovery is one of the first step towards sobriety. Clients often arrive at their current situation with very poor boundaries. Family and loved ones must not support any behavior that signals drug or alcohol abuse is acceptable, this includes providing money, food, and shelter. Families should let the their loved one know they have the support of positive behavior such as seeking help, entering rehab, or meeting a counselor.
Drug abusers often try to conceal their symptoms and downplay their problems. If you’re worried that a friend or family member might be using drugs, look for the following warning signs
Physical Warning Signs of Drug Addiction
- Bloodshot eyes or pupils that are larger/smaller than usual
- Changes in appetite/sleep patterns and sudden weight loss/gain
- Deterioration of physical appearance and personal grooming
- Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
- Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
Behavioral Signs of Drug Addiction
- Drop in attendance and performance at work/school
- Financial problems, unexplained need for money, and may borrow/steal
- Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
- Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
- Frequently getting into trouble – fights, accidents, or illegal activities
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Psychological Warning Signs of Drug Addiction
- Unexplained change in personality or attitude
- Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts
- Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
- Lack of motivation, lethargic, appears “spaced out”
- Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid without reason
What Role do you Play in your Loved One’s Life?
When drug or alcohol addiction starts to take hold, predictable behavior patterns begin to surface among family, friends, and loved ones. Addiction throws off normal social roles assumed in family or social circles. In order to maintain stability, new roles will be formed or traditional roles will shift to relieve pain, restore balance, and keep the family together. These new roles can take attention away from the individual allowing the entire family to avoid facing the real problem, addiction.
How to Identify Enabling Behaviors: Are you an Enabler?
- Protect others from the consequences of their own actions
- Attempt to save others from feeling intense emotional pain
- Prevent crises for troubled persons which, in fact prolongs the problems
- Act out of a sincere, if misguided, sense of love and loyalty
- Act out of shame to protect self-respect
- Are motivated by fear that they may share the unfortunate consequences of the troubled person’s problems
- Blame themselves for the troubled person’s problems
- Feel guilt over the troubled person’s problems and his/her inability to solve them
- Fear that the troubled person’s problems will never be solved and will ultimately consume them
- Vent a large amount of anger against the troubled person
- Make decisions for the troubled person – decisions that would be best made by the troubled person himself
Identifying Codependent Behaviors: Are you Codependent?
- Do you feel responsible for other people’s feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, health, happiness, and overall sense of wellbeing?
- Do you mask your efforts to control people and situations as “being helpful?”
- Do you feel as if almost nothing is too much trouble, takes too much time or is too expensive if it will “help” the person/people you are involved with?
- Do you find it easier to stand up for another, or get angry about the injustices done to another, than to stand up and fight for your own rights?
- Do you feel safest and most comfortable when you are focused on taking care of someone else?
- Do you bolster your self-worth or self-esteem by making someone else feel good?
- Do you feel empty, bored, and worthless if you don’t have someone else to take care of, have a problem to solve, or deal with a crisis?
- Do you stay in unfulfilling or toxic relationships for fear that no one else will want you?
- Do you sometimes wonder if you have “sucker” written on your forehead or “doormat” on your back?
- Are your thoughts and feelings more reflective of the thoughts and feelings of others around you?
Common Roles Played by Loved Ones Dealing with Addiction
The Person Who Suffers From Substance Abuse
People will use excuses, minimize the problem, and refuse to change their behavior. They sneak and lie about their drug use, mishandle money, and ignore other responsibilities due to their substance abuse problems. Indviduals typically deny they have a problem and make it sound or appear that it’s others who have the problem, or blame their drug/alcohol use on outside problems or people. They allow their emotions to dictate their lives by trying to cover them instead of being honest about them. They haven’t been approached about drug rehab, have refused to go, or have been before, relapsed, and are in denial.
Enablers are usually the spouse or significant other, but sometimes a parent or friend if there is no romantic partner. They stand by their loved one helping to pick up the pieces, making more excuses, not exposing the problems in a way that can make them stop. They sometimes try to help but in ways that end up allowing the addiction to continue. Often, enablers are in as much denial as the person struggling with addiction on how bad it is and block out all evidence in their minds that the substance abuse is really happening.
Heroes often fantasize that if they accomplish enough, then the whole family will be “O.K.” These children are overly conscientious, conform to all the rules, and constantly seek approval. In spite of being high achievers, the hero child always feels inadequate. They hero distracts from the addiction by being a good face for the family by overachieving and being a rule follower. They are the do-gooders, but often resent this in the end. These are the people who feel they have to make the family “look good” in the eyes of others.
Scapegoats are the opposite of The Hero. The family distracts by blaming Scapegoats for anything and everything. Scapegoats become the black sheep of the family and take the hit of responsibility that really belongs to the person who is struggling. Scapegoats may get into trouble often, have a rebellious or “I don’t care” attitude, and take attention away from the real issue of addiction.
Mascots often distract family members from the addiction problem by being goofy and bringing some light to the situation. They try to alleviate the pain in the family, but often go overboard. Mascots draw attention away from the pain and dysfunction at home by being entertaining.
The Lost Child
Lost Children will just go with the flow, don’t stand out, and don’t make any trouble. With the antics and achievement of other family members, low-maintenance kids are what the addiction family needs. Unfortunately, the Lost Children often stays lost long into adulthood and have a lot of trouble getting direction in their lives, interacting socially, or standing up for themselves.
Lost Children may spend a lot of time alone to escape their problems. They can experience social difficulties, be very shy, and engage in make-believe play with imaginary friends.
Intervention can be a successful process and has enabled thousands of people to receive treatment despite the fact that they have already refused to do so. Their addictions can be to alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, Internet, sex, shopping, and other behaviors.
Contrary to the myth that individuals have to hit bottom in order to receive help, an intervention can break through the denial and bring up the bottom by creating a crisis.
When clear, detailed information is presented in a loving, firm, and supportive way the addicted individual is able to see the harm that addiction has had on their lives and the lives of their loved ones.