Chances are if you have tried talking to someone you love about their struggles with addiction, that you’ve been met with some resistance. Often people suffering from substance use disorders have difficulty sharing their experience due to feelings and fears of being misunderstood. No one can really understand what it’s like to be someone else. This is especially true in the case of addiction where someone continuously acts in ways that they know are harmful to themselves and others. Still, it’s worth trying to understand what someone with a substance use disorder is going through. Here are some of the things your addicted loved one has trouble explaining to you.
I Don’t Have Control
Perhaps the hardest thing to understand about addiction is that it’s not a choice. It’s not a lack of willpower or a character flaw. One reason this is hard to grasp is due to statistics showing that more than 86 percent of Americans have drunk alcohol at some point in their lives but only about 5.7 percent have developed an alcohol use disorder. Many people have woken up feeling terrible after a wild night and decided to cut back on their drinking, assuming that since they were able to do it, everyone else can too. However, that’s not the case at all. People with substance use disorders have a fundamentally different relationship and reaction to drugs and/or alcohol. The compulsion to use drugs and/or alcohol feels more like a physical need, such as hunger or thirst.
It’s Not That Drugs and Alcohol Are so Good, It’s That Life Without Them Is so Bad
It can be really baffling to watch someone with a substance use disorder behave in ways that are obviously self-destructive, yet persist in using drugs and/or alcohol. You may scratch your head and wonder how drugs and/or alcohol could be so great as to justify the damage caused by them. Often, it’s not that someone loves drugs and/or alcohol that much. Rather, consuming these substances makes life more bearable and may be the only coping mechanism the user knows. While it’s true that some people have a genetic predisposition that makes them far more likely to experience drug and/or alcohol dependency, the majority of people with substance use issues have co-occurring mental health disorders or a history of trauma. Drugs and alcohol are often ways of self-medicating. Letting go of the user’s only form of comfort can be terrifying and feels like giving up the one thing that helps make the pain tolerable.
I Need Compassion and Not Punishment
Too often, our society has depended on punishment as a way of dealing with addiction. Children who get caught using drugs or alcohol are grounded. Society’s war on drugs has resulted in the imprisonment of millions of sick people needing help. The punitive approach is unreasonable and doesn’t make sense. If someone is already using drugs to the detriment of their health, relationships, and career, how effective could more punishment be? Often, people suffering from addiction don’t stop and mend their ways simply because they don’t know how. Individuals with substance use disorders need compassion and help, not more punishment.
Want to Stop Using Drugs And/Or Alcohol but Don’t Know How?
Understanding someone who struggles with substance use is difficult, especially if you’ve never experienced it for yourself. Reading about addiction can help, as can listening with an open mind. At Tree House Recovery of Portland, Oregon, we provide a supportive environment for men recovering from substance use disorders. Our holistic treatment program addresses addiction on the mental, physical, and spiritual levels. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call us today at (503) 850-2474