How to stop addict
10- How to Stop Addict
Seeing a loved one ruin his life with drugs, family members are desperate to get him to stop. They point out to the addict how the drugs are hurting him, they reason with him, they bribe him, they threaten him, they plead. Over time the family tries everything under the sun – but to no avail. Though it may seem intolerable, the simple truth is there is not much you can do to stop an addict from using drugs until they are ready and willing to stop.
- The priority in an addict’s life
- Family’s powerlessness over addiction
The priority in an addict’s life
- One of your family members is an addict, and he or she is driving you crazy. This person steals from you, lies to you, manipulates you and hurts you, yet says he loves you and promises to give up drugs. You want to believe his promises, even though experience shows they are baseless. Out of love or to save the integrity of your family, you do all you can to rescue him from the troubles he gets into. You give him money to pay his debts or you bail him out of jail. You shower him with affection and assure him of your love. You beg, you plead. You even pay for him to go to detox yet soon after he starts using drugs again. Then you turn to threats. You argue with him. You point out how he is ruining not only his life but everybody else’s too. Finally you get tough and throw him out of the house, but sooner or later you find yourself taking care of him again. You realize no matter what you do, be it punishing or compassionate, he continues his drug use. Exhausted and at the end of your tether, you wonder why with all the pain and harm his addiction is causing him and the family, he will not stop.
- The truth is your loved one is suffering from the disease of addiction. He has a mental disease that has distorted his thinking to the point that he is beyond reason. His addiction means he will use drugs regardless of the severity of its consequences. An addict is in the grip of a powerful obsession to use drugs because their brain structure and its communication system have become disrupted. Even if he acknowledges he has a major problem, he will find it very difficult to stop using only his own willpower. This is because his body has become dependent on drugs and if cut off from those drugs, the addict will react with cravings and painful withdrawal symptoms. In a very real sense, with an addict, drugs are in charge of his life. He has lost the power of choice and control over his drug use — and he needs to use to survive.
- Once the disease of addiction has developed, it takes over every aspect of a person’s life. Their priorities change radically, and everything apart from using drugs becomes unimportant. Anything that gets in the way of feeding the disease is disregarded and sacrificed, including relationships with family and friends. An addict may, of course, be at heart an honest, caring person. But when addiction takes hold, integrity and moral considerations become non-existent. Because of the insanity brought about by the disease of addiction, they can justify any act no matter how reprehensible. Reality is painful for the addict, so escaping it becomes a priority. As his disease consumes him, he begins to live in a world of fantasy where drugs rule and denial reigns. Though drugs begin to ruin every aspect of his life, this is the place where – paradoxically — he feels safe and protected. Living detached from any sense of reality, he acts in ways that are selfish and incomprehensible to those around him. He steals from his family; he puts them and others at harm. He manipulates and lies and blames, which is all acceptable in the fantasy world to which he has retreated. This is the insanity brought on by the disease of addiction. It’s a power beyond his control – until he is desperate enough to honestly ask for help from others.
- For information that explains the disease of addiction, please refer to: Disease of Addiction
Family’s powerlessness over addiction
1. Prevent addicts from hitting rock bottom
- An addict will use drugs until he reaches the point where he has had enough, until the burden of addiction is too much to bear. In the language of the recovery community of 12 Step Fellowships, this fateful occasion is called hitting rock bottom. It happens only when the pain of addiction and its consequences are great enough to break through the armor of denial and fantasy that the addict has built around himself. For many this occurs only when circumstances have reduced them to such a state they no longer can deny the reality of their condition. For some it may be that they have come close to death, perhaps through an attempted suicide or an overdose. For others it may be while sitting in jail or a hospital or a mental institution that they realize what drugs have done to them. Usually it is at such dire crossroads that the addict acknowledges that his attempts to stop his drugs have been futile. And then, finally, he can surrender by admitting his powerlessness over his disease, and become willing to ask for and accept help. The irony is that the family may be the biggest obstacle to the addict reaching the point where he becomes ready and willing to let go of his addiction.
- Those who know the nature of this disease recognize that most addicts need to hit a rock bottom before they take the actions necessary to get clean. But the instinct of the family is to rush to the aid of their loved one, thereby sparing him from experiencing the consequences of his drug use. Yet the addict’s best chance of getting clean is when he feels those consequences. In the words of 12 Step Fellowships, the addict will seek recovery only when he is sick and tired of being sick and tired. This is the sad truth, a truth that family members find incredibly difficult to accept. To take one example, it may seem impossible for a mother to accept that the best thing she can do for her son or daughter who has just been arrested is to let them experience the consequences of their addiction. So the mother will rush to bail the addict out of jail, and then perhaps pay for a lawyer, and buy them new clothes so they look respectable at the court hearing. Maybe they accompany the son or daughter to court, thereby making sure they arrive on time. All these types of “helping”, unfortunately, are counter-productive to addicts for it hinders their journey to what could be the awakening of their circumstances.
2. Refuse to believe addiction is a disease
- Though it certainly is not their intention, family members that help in such ways are making it easier for their addicted loved ones to continue using drugs. The family is enabling the addict, which is common but destructive to the addict’s chances for recovery. Families tend to act this way because they falsely believe addiction is a moral issue or a behavioral problem that can be stopped if the addict only tries hard enough. They are not aware that their loved one is suffering from a primary disease that has nothing to do with being a “bad” or a weak person. Family members need to realize they cannot make their loved one stop his drug use. The fact is that unless the addict accepts his condition and wants to get clean, there is not much the family can do to help him. The use by the family of bribes, threats, punishments, appeals to reason, or declarations of love are all based on the mistaken belief that they have power to stop their loved one’s addiction. The family is under the illusion that through their “helping” the addict can change the way he acts, as if his addiction is a simple matter of behavior. But, of course, addiction is not a moral failing or a behavioral problem or a weakness of will – it is a disease. Like any other chronic and primary disease, it needs to be treated in a proper way.
3. Rescue addicts from addiction consequences
- When family members rescue their loved one from the consequences of his addiction, they serve only to shelter him from reality, In doing so, the family prolongs the pain and suffering for the addict and those around him. This enabling behavior springs from the family members’ mistaken belief that they have power over the disease of addiction, that they have the power to stop their loved one’s drug use. Belief in this power leads them to take unhealthy actions that do the addict no good, while meanwhile making their own lives miserable and unmanageable. By jumping in to save the addict, by making the problems of the addict the focus of their lives, family members become enmeshed in the insanity of this disease. The result is anger and frustration.
- Addiction is known as a family disease for the good reason that families commonly fall into the trap of trying to rescue the addict. They think they are doing the right thing, and that their actions will help their loved one find his way out of addiction. The sad fact is that all their efforts are doomed to failure, and the only thing they are doing is creating unhappiness for themselves. When family members finally accept that their loved one is suffering from a primary and chronic disease which they too have no power over – Step 1 of Family support Fellowships, they become ready to start their own recovery. By accepting their limits regarding the addiction, the family is opening the door to the addict becoming willing to take the necessary actions to recover from his illness. Just as the addict will find the tools of recovery in a 12 Step Fellowship, so too can the family find their way back from the insanity of living with addiction by following the suggestions offered by 12 Step family groups. Not only will family members discover relief in these groups, they will also learn what they can do to support and encourage a loved one finding his way towards recovery.