Addiction has a devastating effect on the family members and friends of those who are addicted to a substance. Worse still is the breakdown in communication between the addict and family members, either because of deterioration in communication skills or because the person they are familiar with has changed.
A person with an addiction ceases to be viewed as a person; instead, they are viewed as an addict. While the addiction is undoubtedly present in the life of your loved one, the individual is also there, buried beneath an all-encompassing illness known as addiction.
If it were possible to communicate more effectively, your addicted loved one might try to convey one or more of these five things:
We Are Not Trying to Hurt You
We are not unaware of the effect our addictions have on those closest to us. We know that lying, occasional stealing, and staying away from home for extended periods of time causes you to worry. Because of this, we may distance ourselves from you and others who are closest to us. In a way, we are trying to protect you. Our anger and frustration are really misdirected anger and shame toward ourselves. You do have a right to be angry and upset at harmful behavior directed toward you.
Addiction Can Happen to Anyone
“Please don’t look at me as a failure. I am caught up in a disease affecting my urges, behavior, and my thinking. Please remember me before this happened. I was not always addicted. What I need is your understanding and your compassion. Instead of wasting your energy on judging me, please take time to learn more about this disease. It is okay to hold me accountable; deep down, I don’t want you to enable me. What I need is for you to find a way to be a positive influence on my recovery.”
Getting High or Drunk Is Not the Point
It is not all about getting high. It is not all about getting drunk, either. Addiction is a very complicated disease going much deeper than any form of intoxication. We might be trying to escape something in our mind; We may be dealing with something so emotionally painful, we may not even realize it. All these things may mean we have depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues we are struggling with but haven’t been diagnosed with. Sometimes, addicts like ourselves were abused or neglected as children; we may not even remember what happened. We may have blocked it out as a way to protect ourselves. Our addiction might be how we cope because nobody taught us a better way.
None of This Is Intentional
It doesn’t matter what ultimatums you give us, or how compassionate you might be; there will be times it seems as though we don’t care anymore, or we are deciding to abuse drugs or alcohol just for the heck of it. If only it were that simple! It’s just not easy to stop. We wish there were simple answers and solutions, but this is a frustrating disease that can affect anyone. When we do come to a crisis point and get help, we have to realize that we shall be managing this illness for the rest of our lives.
What I Need Is Your Support
This may sound strange, but we do need your support. Support is different from lecturing us, blaming us, passing judgment on us, and criticizing us. This may trigger us to distance ourselves even further. We know what we are doing is not helping anybody, and we understand why you’re lashing out, but criticizing us will not help anyone. When we are ready for help, we will really appreciate it if you support us. If we share with you what we learn about ourselves when we go through any kind of therapy, please understand that is privileged information, and it is a sign of trust.
Addiction is as complicated as it is complex. Finding local support for family members and loved ones of addicted persons can be a helpful start in understanding better ways to communicate. When your loved one is ready to accept professional help, your relationship may be able to restart from a healthier place.
When struggling with addiction, communication can be difficult and often ineffective. We want to communicate our feelings, but often we either don’t know how, or we are dealing with other issues influencing our behavior that we may not be aware of. Addiction is more than merely getting high or intoxicated; it is a multi-faceted illness-causing changes to behavior and thinking patterns. Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains’ inspiring landscape, the Detox Center of Colorado offers a solution-based transitional residence program aimed at accountability and recovery. We look forward to helping you explore the range of supportive treatment and aftercare options available to you. Call the Detox Center of Colorado at (303) 952-5035. It may be the best thing you do for yourself today.