Dear Addict, I Love You

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“Cunning, baffling, and powerful” are the words used by the founders of the original 12 step fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous to describe the condition of the disease of alcoholism in its untreated state.  Yet over eighty years later with offshoots, hybrid, and alternative programs aimed at treating various forms of addiction, the recidivism rate continues to skyrocket and is now ranked 1st in mortality amongst preventable illnesses.  It seems plausible that the rate of relapses, overdoses, and addiction related deaths now match the growth of centers for treatment and therapeutic approaches.  Everything from 12 steps to proclaimed cures to innovations in medicine has been introduced, making little to no effect at all in treating and curbing the rate of relapse.  In such a critical time where hundreds die daily, it is time to stop avoiding the elephant in the room through cover up cliches conveying “it’s a relapsing disease”, “the addict just doesn’t want the help”, or “they haven’t hit their bottom.”  Often this mindset creates a barrier between the addict and society, leaving everyone puzzled and deflecting responsibility, perpetuating a sense of hopelessness for what is already perceived as a hopeless condition.  It is important to make it clear that many of the available treatment approaches are vital and even effective in and of themselves except they lack a trivial and overlooked component.  This component when used primarily, appropriately,  and rigorously is highly effective in the treatment of addiction.  Yet, it is ironic beginning with the idea that it seems many professionals, families, and victims of addiction want to treat this illness but continue to miss the most fundamental aspect of treatment.  It is also ironic that the remedy can be discovered by addressing what is lacking within every addict.  Sometimes we don’t have to know an addict to find out.  Sometimes all we need to do is look deep within ourselves.  Our unending quest for treatment approaches has overshadowed this innate solution.  Though simple and obvious when brought to the forefront, it can be the most difficult to apply due to preconceived notions and beliefs on addiction.  The only effective way to treat the addict is to LOVE and ACCEPT him or her as they are.  Once you embark on an agenda of using a treatment approach without cultivating an authentic love and appreciation (yes, I said appreciation!) for the addict, the chances of healing are drastically reduced.  As a matter of fact, the only thing that needs to change is our outlook and perceptions of those struggling with addiction.  

When we become aware that someone we know may be battling with an addiction, the first thing we should avoid is treating them.  The most important and primary skill to acquire is loving and accepting them without reservation.  Addiction has its many causes and sources but at the root we can always find a deep sense of self loathing and separateness.  Without genuinely loving the person inside their addiction, treatment is short-lived, ineffective, and even detrimental.  We must begin to ask, if the addict self-medicates the absence of love, shouldn’t we work towards developing a love that will aid in the healing process?  Shouldn’t we love for the sake of loving rather than attempting to change anything or anyone?  

I’m afraid we have made a mess of effective healing with ingenuous treatment modalities and luxurious aesthetics that lack authentic love.  We must start with a basic foundation of appreciation for the addict.  We must love, appreciate, and accept the addict because 1) he or she struggles with an intense, life threatening condition that at some level we can all relate to; 2) active addiction is a creative, although a dangerous way the person seeks relief for pain; and 3) addiction is not an identity but a condition occurring to the person similar to any serious illness.  

A condition we can all relate to

Addiction represents those personal nuances we all struggle with and long to be rid of.  It doesn’t matter who you are, you are either battling or have battled an internal trait or behavior that goes beyond sheer determination to conquer.  I recall a student intern therapist asking me “why can’t they just stop, knowing the damage they’re causing?”  I replied  by asking her to think of one thing she has struggled with to personally change.  I asked her not to answer but to think on it and understand how it compared to drug addiction.  I have a feeling from that moment on, she at the very least developed a healthy respect for the people she was learning to help.  

A creative way to relieve pain

In addiction, it is known that the greater the pain the greater the means to relieve that pain.  Most addicts have suffered and endured  insurmountable physical, emotional, and psychological trauma beyond the average person’s comprehension.  How much we all desire to escape uncomfortable feelings and circumstances and often entertain ways to find relief!  Often a a few hours of sadness or disappointment can feel like weeks.  It is no wonder that the addict finds temporary relief from the rawness of experiencing abuse, loss, and alienation.  With discomfort being continual and unceasing, the person finds a seemingly creative and efficient way to receive love-they connect to a source that provides a temporary but predictable solution.  Through this we can appreciate the addict because it is our nature to be loved and love unconditionally and to be reassured that our sources of love will be with us through life’s painful moments. 

Addiction is not the person 

Addiction should never be attributed to a person or an aspect of an individual’s personality.  Addiction is not something a person controls or discontinues on their own.  Unfortunately, addiction is the only illness that openly identifies the person with the condition.  Although this is used as a way to describe a person with an addiction, it perpetuates the belief that the person is one and the same with the illness.  Rarely do we identify someone suffering from other serious medical conditions with the names of the illness. Rather these individuals are either referred by their names or identified as patients.  We must always remember that an addiction is a condition that has happened or his happening to the person suffering similar to any illness.  The addict should be honored and respected much like the cancer survivor, which through a difficult battle has made it to see another day.  Hundreds of people die daily due to addiction.  The most profound impact we can have in their lives is to openly embrace, accept, and love them as they are.  

2 thoughts on “Dear Addict, I Love You

  1. I can agree to a certain extent. I did try for 2 decades to love and accept and push treatment for my sister, but even that failed. I do feel it is an illness and yet some addicts also are Narcissist and Sociopaths. My sister abused for years and due to the grave neglect stemming from her use, all of her children struggle. When the addiction becomes so severe that the person neglects those in her care and even molests someone, where do we draw the line? I cannot accept that all of her children were robbed of their potential because she would never accept treatment. Nothing would stop the drug use. A three year old was beaten to death due to knocking an addicts fix off the table, and no one there stopped using. The baby’s father is now in prison for dealing Meth. My sister nearly died from needle use and as soon as she was well enough used again.

    I don’t know what the answer is. If love works then my sister should be healed because my Mom bought her a new manufactured home after she destroyed hers. Mom has loved her to death.

    I believe early treatment is crucial. We aren’t being aggressive enough and we often do not have the option to commit people, even though they are endangering themselves and others. And access to treatment is limited.

    I had to let go. After 2 decades of complete insanity, I have said goodbye. I often think we are missing a link in that I feel many addicts are also sociopaths or narcissists. it is quite possible that over time the addiction causes damage to areas of the brain relating to empathy and remorse. Meth & pain pills has been their DOC, and I am not sure if my sister and some of her kids are even the same person, chemically. I have seem my family destroyed and I do feel for the addict, but they are not the only ones suffering. The family also is put through the ringer. .

    I’m not sure I can ever forgive the damage caused to my five nieces and nephews from her drug use. Their lives will forever be altered. Her son is in and out of mental hospitals (is in the hospital as we speak) and can no longer function and drinks Clorox to kill the voices in his head. His life was stolen and I grieve this loss. Perhaps some people will never recover. It is sad, but whether it is addiction, or my sister who may have a personality disorder, or both causing so my destruction, I can’t be a part of it any longer. Twenty years was enough. I still love them, but I choose my own sanity over the constant chaos caused by the addiction and perhaps, a personality disorder.

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    1. Landundefined… you bring up so many great points and thank you for sharing your personal experience with a difficult problem that has hit close to home. Addiction is a chronic illness and manifest in self centered traits that keep the addict in a state of detachment and apathy. Although a great percentage of sociopaths and narcissists are addicts, not all addicts are sociopaths or narcissists. There are several factors that affect the outcome and severity of the addiction- a few being along the lines with what you mentioned on mental illness and personality disorders. A sociopath is nearly incapable of making the emotional connection between his/her actions, the consequences, and the need to change. The emotional connection is vital towards change.

      You said you finally had to let go. Sometimes that’s the best way you can love a toxic person. You definitely did the right thing by setting good boundaries and taking care of yourself.

      I agree with many treatment approaches being very passive and even enabling the addict. There needs to be more people working towards developing ideas that are center on getting into the deep rooted issues of addiction rather than creating comfortable treatment environments to keep the patient in treatment for billing purposes… sadly, seen this too often.

      Good treatment is multifaceted with love only being one of the many essential ingredients.

      Thanks again for your comment!

      Like

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