Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Story of Addiction

When I first shared thoughts on the addiction of a loved one, the question I seemed to get asked most often was "did I have any clue that something was wrong" or "were their signs".  People seemed to want to know, to understand the story.  What I learned with addiction is this could be anyone's story, as it's become such a fast growing problem in our society.

Think on an intuitive level I felt this person had a problem.  Yes there were tell tale signs, and I did grow suspicious but this person had a legal prescription for pain pills so I thought they were being closely monitored by a doctor.  I thought wrong.  It's really scary how easily some doctors/dentists prescribe such addictive medicines.

Some of the signs....money being spent but nothing to show for it; substantial financial debt even though person was making good money,  rather extreme moods...nice one moment mean the next,  lying without guilt or remorse, their promises and words became undependable, many times they didn't even recall what they said or even did sometimes, physically not feeling well especially during withdrawal, a more disheveled appearance, not seeming to care about anything or anyone but self.  Denial, defensiveness and excuses!  Addicts have a distinct way of turning everything around projecting on to others instead of addressing their own issues.  Think deep down this person thought they were too smart, too mentally strong to ever get addicted.  They were fond of saying addictions are for weak people.

There are always little signs here and there if we look closely enough, but honestly sometimes family, friends and loved ones aren't ready to see them, sometimes it's easier to ignore or pretend that it can't possibly be true. Truth is people want to believe, want to trust the people in their lives. When people do see signs confronting an addict is not easy as they will simply deny, lie,get defensive, resist help, etc., it can be very difficult and painful for all involved.  Addiction is very mean and selfish. 

How does something like this happen?  Well in the case of this person getting wisdom teeth pulled led to their first introduction of a pain killer years ago, they liked the feeling of it.  Eventually they would use it occasionally after work, or with friends for fun.  Then years later health issues lead to it being prescribed and as usually happens with such drugs people develop tolerances needing more and more of the drug to feel it's effects.

Addictions can develop rather quickly.  Sometimes all it takes is trying something once.  As easy as it is to try something, it is a million times harder to quit something.  Just look at how hard it is for people to even quit smoking.  Anyway back to story....

Little did I know their legal script turned into taking to the streets to purchase pills. And when I finally realized the truth it felt overwhelming and scary.  I hold a degree in clinical psychology and know just how difficult an addiction to anything can be to overcome.  So with everything else I have had to deal with over these past few years this just felt surreal.  

Upon first learning the truth adrenaline set in and all the symptoms associated with the flight or fight reaction seem to flood my body.  Including emotions like anger, disappointment, hurt and sadness.  Though there was also a sense of relief that it was finally out in the open.

Being I'm not good at keeping things in I basically confronted this person first thing the next day. Even though they denied and lied I simply told them I knew the truth.  I explained to them how worried I felt, that I would be there when they were ready to be honest.  They still continued to say they didn't have a problem even when it became obvious they were in withdrawal.  So I researched rehab facilities and tried to analyze the situation to figure out what to do.

Later that night, and in a move that surprised me....they came clean.  Maybe not exactly fully clean at first but what was most important was they admitted to having a problem. (if they had not I was planning on staging an intervention that would involve all family and friends)  But they actually agreed to go to detox, though they would not stay for in patient which turned out to be a mistake. Chances of relapse by just detoxing then going straight back to ones life are high.  And that's what happened even though they continued an outpatient rehab program it was just not enough. They could not handle all the withdrawal symptoms while working so they started popping pills again which eventually escalated to crisis point again.  Changes needed to be made to allow time for proper withdrawal not only from the pills but to take the person out of the high trigger situations. Once again action had to be taken.

It's been hard to witness.  To think they were clean, to have them keep telling everyone they were only to find out they were not came as a huge disappointment.  It hurt to know once again they had been lying to everyone in the family.  And it feels sad to see how much they have lost not only financially but of themselves as well.  In many ways it steals a part of a persons soul.  It feels as if they have no emotion, it's as if the substance robs them of all ability to feel. They seem to become a shell of their former self.  And I think what hurts those closest to addicts the most is they just seem to lie about anything and everything to anyone. Many rehab counselors will warn families lying goes hand in hand with addiction.

While this person has been clean for over two months now, I believe they may still have a ways to go.  There is more to recovery than just giving up whatever one is addicted to.  Recovery needs to also address emotional, physical, spiritual and other such areas of life.  Many times addicts have underlying emotional and mental disorders that need addressing too.  And treatment needs to include family and loved ones as well.  It's a process, a process that many don't understand nor are not willing to commit to or work through.  That might be the hardest thing for family, friends and loved ones to have to deal with all the excuses as to why they don't need help. 

This person close to us still has some denial, inability to understand the actions, behaviors, thoughts, beliefs and other stuff that might have contributed to the addiction that need to be addressed, worked on and changed.  So far this person has a hard time acknowledging they may have even hurt anyone.  And they still seem to have plenty of excuses as to why they don't need help, support or meetings to recover. They feel they tried outpatient rehab and it didn't work. At this point they are not even going to counseling which has everyone worried.  Until denial and excuses can be recognized for what they are and let go of, full recovery could be difficult.

Personally I feel disappointed in how this person has handled certain aspects of it.   They seem to think they can do it themselves with no support and many around them remain rather skeptical of this approach. Many experts feel support is a huge factor in overcoming addictions.

Honestly it's really hard to see someone you love go through something like this.  Even though I have a degree in psychology it becomes completely different when its someone close to you experiencing it.  And as much as you want to help them, they need to want to help themselves first. There is a fine line between helping and enabling.  The selfishness, lies and excuses are probably the hardest to forgive and get past. Only time will hopefully heal those wounds. What really angered me was they acted like everyone should just get over it and move on right away.  What they did went on for years so forgiving and learning to trust are not going to happen overnight.

There are still a bunch of questions that seem to linger.  Can trust be rebuilt after years of such constant dishonesty?  Can a person change those very things within them that lead to the addiction in the first place?  Can they remain clean? What happens if they are ever in severe pain will they have the strength to just take an aspirin and not revert back to their old ways?  Will they ever truly understand the hurt they caused?  And can they essentially become a better version of themselves than they were before? 

What must be done is to focus on the positive.  And each person who has been affected by another's addiction must do what's best for themselves as well.  Truth is until someone is ready to accept, commit and work a recovery program there is nothing anyone can do to help.  Sometimes that even means letting those people go, even family and loved ones until they are willing to get help and change.  It can be a very difficult situation, rather overwhelming and stressful for anyone connected to the person.

But I believe the world must hold out hope that people are capable of real change. Problem is everyone wants to change the world but no one wants to change.  And with things like addictions people need to change to overcome it. Maybe we cannot fully help addicts but we can try to guide them to the help they need.  As in all things it is better to hope than to despair.  There are millions of people in this world who are holding out hope for an addict hoping they can find the light in the midst of their darkness. And many an addict trying to find that light and fight the darkness of their addiction.  Where there is a will there is a way.  But it takes commitment, honesty, patience, work, time but most importantly an open mind and willingness to want to change.

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1 comment :

  1. My cousin is addicted to meth and it has affected our whole family. It is so hard dealing with addiction because you feel so helpless...there is nothing you can do unless they hit rock bottom and want to stop.

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