Over the years, our understanding of substance addiction has changed. Once thought to be caused by a lack of willpower or low morality, we now know addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.
Further, we understand addiction causes physical changes in the brain, its structure and how it works. Those changes affect the areas of the brain responsible for judgment, decision-making, learning, memory and behavior control. These changes can be seen in brain image studies.
While it’s true the original decision to start taking drugs is usually voluntary, once an addiction is formed, the individual’s ability stop without help and support is seriously impaired.
Drug Addiction is a Growing Problem
The National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates there are as many as 23 million Americans addicted to substances ranging from alcohol and nicotine to prescription pain killers and heroin. In 2016, more than 64,000 people died of drug overdose, according to the National Institutes of Health.
For every individual who is addicted or who has died from addiction, there are family members and friends who live with the consequences daily. It’s not an easy road, but the mental health professionals at New Vista offer the following suggestions to help.
Learn as Much as You Can About Addiction
Every day, scientists and addiction researchers learn more about the effects of drugs on the brain. New medications and treatment strategies are constantly being developed, giving hope to individuals and their families. Understanding what addiction is – and what it isn’t – can help bring a sense of peace and separate fact from fiction for family and friends.
Connect With Others
Dealing with someone else’s addiction is stressful: phone calls in the middle of the night, incarceration, theft and feelings of guilt. There is a natural inclination to keep addiction secret, but having someone you can talk to can make a difference. New Vista provides both individual and group counseling. Here, you can receive both professional advice and support from others who are traveling the same road; learn new strategies for coping, and share your personal experiences.
Take Care of The Family
Addiction can lead to family breakdown, isolation and unhealthy behaviors. Family therapy can give everyone an avenue to address their fears and concerns in a secure, non-threatening environment. Therapists can help family members strengthen family bonds and find new ways of caring for one another.
When your loved-one finally enters rehab, keep in mind that achieving recovery will be one of the hardest things he or she will ever do. Keep expectations realistic. There will be stumbles along the way. Don’t make the mistake of thinking an individual recovering from addiction will return to his “old self” once free of addiction. That old self is gone. A new person will emerge, so be patient.
Find Things That Give You Joy
Your entire life must not revolve around the addiction. Assure your loved-one of your support, but don’t sacrifice your own well-being and happiness. Pursue hobbies and activities that bring you satisfaction and peace: crafting, church, gardening, fishing and volunteering. Taking care of yourself helps you build the inner reserves you need for this journey.
Physical activity, whether it’s running 5 miles a day, lifting weights, yoga, swimming laps or walking the dog, helps to relieve stress, improves your physical health and gives you a sense of control over at least one portion of your life.
Consider Private Therapy
Private sessions with a licensed counselor can help address hurt feelings, wounds and anger that often arise out of someone’s addiction. Don’t be afraid to seek private sessions with a counselor to explore these feelings and understand your role in your loved-one’s recovery.
New Vista serves the mental health and addiction needs of people and families across 17 counties in Kentucky. Our professional staff provides individual, family and group counseling. We use evidence-based treatment to help clients achieve their fullest potential. For questions, information or to get started, call our 24-hour helpline, 1.800.928.8000.