Recognizing and admitting a loved one struggles with addiction is the first step on a long journey of recovery. But how do you recognize if a habit has turned into something more worrisome or potentially life-threatening?
Caring for someone who struggles with addictive behaviors can be frustrating, scary and disheartening. And communicating with them – and getting them to recognize the problem – is challenging.
The Ranch at Dove Tree wrote an article this January, published on their website, addressing these concerns. Their article, The Five Biggest Lies Addicts Tell Themselves about Addiction, below, helps foster an understanding between addicts and the people who want to help them.
“If you have never struggled with substance abuse, it may seem impossible to understand why your loved one continues to engage in behavior that hurts you, your family, and himself.
Remember that addiction is a disease, and as much as this illness can cause an addict to lie to those who love her, it also forces her to lie to herself. Understanding the fallacies and lies that enable addiction can make it easier to communicate with someone who is struggling with substance abuse.
Here are the five biggest lies addicts tell themselves:
- I can quit anytime I want to: This lie often manifests in the phrase “as soon as:” I’ll cut back as soon as I’m less stressed at work, as soon as I fix my relationship, as soon as I find a new job. Everyone can relate to this kind of justification; we regularly promise ourselves to start being healthier as soon as the holidays are over or as soon as bikini season begins. We also know how hard it is to keep those resolutions; imagine what it’s like to try to fight a disease like addiction on your own. The truth is that it’s extremely difficult to overcome this illness alone. That’s why it’s so important for addicts to accept that they can’t solve their own problems. Only then can recovery begin.
- I only drink on weekends so I can’t be an addict: To an addict, it can seem like their substance abuse is not that big of a deal if it’s limited to two or three nights in a long work week. But limiting binging to a short period of time does not eliminate the health risks associated with abusing drugs and alcohol. Friends and families can often attest that the emotional consequences of weekend benders extend well into the following week. The truth is that addiction is an illness, and although people control it with varying success, no one can manage their disease forever. Those who want to reach out to addicts should recognize that the individual may feel like they are in control of their addiction; it’s important to help your loved one realize how thoroughly their disease permeates your lives.
- As long as my addiction doesn’t affect anyone else, it’s okay: Friends and family members of someone who struggles with substance abuse know the truth: addiction always affects other people. Recognizing this justification can help you understand why your loved one lies to you about their addiction. They may believe that they are shielding you from the negative consequences of their behavior. It’s important to recognize that this hurtful behavior can come from a place of love; showing the addict exactly how their addiction DOES affect you and your family can be an influential part of helping them recognize the need for seeking treatment.
- I’m not as bad as him or her, so I’m okay: Again, this is an easy justification to understand. From our job performance to our health habits to our relationships, we often compare our actions to other people’s failings as a means of justification. But this unhealthy practice is especially fatal for addicts. The truth is that with addiction, as in life, there will always be people who are better or worse off. Be prepared for this kind of self-justification and firmly remind your loved one that other people’s behavior is no excuse. The ultimate consequences of addiction, and the potential for recovery, are on the individual.
- I don’t care if my addiction kills me: For a person who loves an addict, this is one of the most hurtful lies that substance abusers tell themselves. Remember that addiction comes with a plethora of physical, emotional, and psychological consequences. Addicts suffer from failing health, neck-break mood swings, and warped perception. Substance abuse can often wreak havoc on professional and personal lives as well, which further contributes to depression. It’s no wonder that many addicts feel hopeless. The truth is that through the detox and recovery process, your loved one’s perception will change. As they regain their physical health and well-being, and begin to address the emotional issues related to their addiction, a person who struggled with substance abuse will start looking at the world through a completely different lens. As someone reaching out to a loved one who has given up hope, remember all of the factors that contribute to your friend or family member’s attitude. Express how much they mean to you, but do not be discouraged by defeatism. Their mood at their lowest point does not indicate their potential for the future.
Whatever your relationship with an addict, it’s important to understand that this problem is a disease, both physical and mental. Remember that your perception and that of your loved one who is addicted to drugs and alcohol are fundamentally different. Arming yourself with an understanding of the self-deceptions that enable addiction can make it easier to relate to your loved one, and begin to help them recognize the seriousness of the problem.”
If you have a teen or young adult one struggling with addiction call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.