Those of us who have been connected to an individual addicted to drugs and alcohol, understand the misery seen when looking into the substance abuser’s life. The compulsive and destructive patterns of behavior, coupled with overwhelming guilt and shame following wrongful actions, runs deep in the eyes of those suffering. The low emotional state of a chemically dependent person can produce feelings of hopelessness, and an inability to effectively manage one’s own life is humiliating and painful to say the least.
In short, it is easy to observe as an onlooker the destruction associated with losing one’s command of life to drugs and alcohol. While this is true, the emotional burden felt by the addicted person is far greater. In helping (or attempting to help) a loved one to overcome their substance abuse issues, take the time first to understand the burden they carry and the obstacles they face in the road to successful recovery.
The Burdens of Addiction
Substance abusers face real and serious physical, mental and emotional obstacles which work directly against any existing urge to get or remain sober.
At the onset of a substance abuse problem, the individual faced some sort of problem or unwanted feelings from which he/she hoped to escape through drugs or alcohol. The temporary relief afforded by heroin or cocaine quickly wears off, and these problems still exist–often magnified due to their abandoned state.
Further, biophysical factors (including the mechanism of drug tolerance and cellular-level drug dependency) encourage an individual on a physical level to continue to use drugs. The pattern of drug abstinence followed by highly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, for example, pushes a user to continue using drugs even if only to avoid such discomforts.
Next, and very importantly, mental and emotional manifestations account for a large portion of the burdens which an addict faces on a regular basis. For example:
- Feelings of helplessness or being trapped; hopelessness
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Guilt and shame for one’s actions (drug use or drug-seeking behavior)
- Fear of being caught
- Anxiety related to one’s safety
- Depression, which can in turn encourage continued use
Helping Someone Who is Addicted
The pain, suffering and general misery of addiction can be addressed through effective treatment measures. Where strategies are aimed at an extensive address of every aspect of the substance abuse condition and its associated lifestyle, real recovery is possible.
1. Start by offering your support. Provide a quiet, drug-free environment for the addict and lend a safe, non-judgmental disposition. Let them know you want to help them get clean. If the individual does not want help or cannot be found, at this step consult the help of a professional interventionist.
2. Immediately begin researching treatment options. Consider factors such as program length, efficacy (success rate) and location. Depending on the financial situation of the addict, determine whether the programs you are interested in take insurance or offer payment plans.
3. Together with the addict, determine which program makes the most sense and get them started in treatment right away. Do not hesitate. Where a window of opportunity has presented itself, act quickly.
The seemingly never ending cycle of addiction leads to misery, undoubtedly. Remember this in your approach with helping those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. In the field of treatment and substance abuse intervention, the objective is always to help individuals to get better and this process begins first by understanding and proactively rehabilitating life skills towards a brighter, drug-free future.