There are many myths and misconceptions regarding addiction in our society. Most people know some basics about it: drugs are harmful to the mind and body of the user as well as to the close ones of the person suffering from an addiction, people usually know that it’s hard for addicts to function without the substance and that it may cause them trouble at work or school.
However, there are certain misguided notions often portrayed in the media like the idea that addiction is a moral failing or a lack of willpower instead of a disease that affects the brain.
To help you understand addiction better and set the record straight about some of these erroneous notions, here are 7 things an addict, like I once was, wish you knew. They will be great knowledge for you and an amazing way to support anyone you know that may be going through an addiction.
1. Addiction can affect anyone
Over the years, the media has depicted addicts in a negative way, enforcing the stereotype that they are bad people with low morals. But the truth is, addiction has no regard for race, religion, social status, education or gender. It can strike any demographic and anyone can suffer from it, from a well educated professional to a homeless person.
When we take into account that addiction can happen to us too, we can understand better the person suffering from it and be more compassionate. It can also help us be more aware and take proper care and measures against addiction.
2. Addiction is a disease
Addiction is not substance abuse, and as we mentioned before, it shouldn’t be thought of as a result of poor discipline or willpower. It is a very real disease that requires medical attention and treatment to be overcome.
Addiction changes the way your brain functions. The chemicals from drugs alter your brain chemistry and overload it with large amounts of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which overstimulates the brain’s reward system. This feeling makes the person want to experience it again, and they keep using the substance in order to do so. When a person has been abusing drugs for a long time, it can cause damage in the brain related to decision-making, learning, memory, and good judgment.
3. There are multiple reasons for someone to become addicted and every case is different
While there are certain factors that increase the risk of addiction – such as genetics, family history, and mental disorders – there is rarely one single reason why a person becomes an addict.
More often than not, people turn to drugs and alcohol to suppress stressful and painful feelings, and these feelings can come from a variety of reasons, from family issues to low self-esteem. It’s important to remember that the same way everyone has diverse reasons why they suffer from addiction, the disease affects every person differently.
4. Addiction is treatable
Addiction is neither a hopeless condition nor a terminal disease. It is treatable and responds to professional care. The most important thing to identify is the type of addiction you or your loved one is suffering from in order to get customized and proper care. With the right treatment, therapy and even medicine, recovery is an attainable goal.
It’s important to remember that relapse may be a part of recovery and it doesn’t mean that the person has failed, just that their treatment plan needs some adjustments, the road is long and hard, but it’ll be worth it.
5. It doesn’t help to bring up the past
Constantly bringing up the troubled past of a person who’s making an effort to have a better future can only create resentment and drive them away. They know all about their past, they’re probably working very hard on coming to terms with it and making amends for any damage they did.
What was once a valid criticism may no longer apply? Instead, try to address the issues happening right now, as going back to problems that have already been solved and which they have overcome keeps the focus off current situations.
6. They know you’re disappointed
Most recovering addicts are aware of the damage drugs have caused them and the people close to them. Sometimes you may feel like expressing your disappointment, or think that nagging at them constantly can be helpful, however, tough love in addiction isn’t the most effective intervention method, and they very likely already know how disappointed you are in them.
Instead, positive reinforcement is a much more effective way to interact with a recovering addict. Show them you’re proud of them for the progress they’ve made in rehab and provide comfort when needed. Focus on the positive as a way of encouraging them to keep working hard on their recovery.
7. They need your love and support
As I mentioned before, the process of recovery is long and very difficult. It can cause depression and anxiety, so it’s very important for your loved one to feel that you’re there for them, providing them love and support. They have to work very hard every day, and sometimes it may feel like it’s too much. But the process can become much easier and they may feel like their goal is more attainable if they can count on you to encourage them along the way.
Watching a loved one suffer from an addiction may be one of the hardest things to do, but you need to remember that it is hard for them too. Understand that addiction is a disease that can be treated and with the right attitude you can help your loved one overcome it.
Do you know anyone who is recovering from an addiction? If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment below.
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