21 Dec What if the Person I Love is Addicted?
A good friend called recently and the words I heard were familiar…”A family member of mine is addicted to pain medication.” Whether it’s pain medication, alcohol, some other drug or substance of abuse, the pain in the voice of the caller is always the same. In fact, in my years as a counselor I have come to realize that no situation is scarier than when someone in the family becomes addicted. Everything in the lives of those affected suddenly is up for grabs. One day everything seems normal and okay with your loved one, the next they seem to have been replaced by an unknown stranger.
Most often, as a counselor, I am confronted by how desperately the family wants everything to be okay—today. The process of addiction does not happen suddenly nor does it leave easily. Addiction takes hold gradually, but with a bulldog’s tenacity and it doesn’t want to let go. There are so many reasons people become addicted and, in most cases, there was never an intention to become a full blown addict. One heart-broken mother told me how her daughter, who was an outstanding athlete in high school, became addicted to methamphetamine when her teammate encouraged her to take some little white pills before practice. “They will make you run faster and give you more energy.” Those “energy” pills led her down a road that almost led to her death. Others find their way into addiction because of boredom, pain, abuse, daring, etc. Addiction really is no respecter of persons.
Substance dependency is the one disease that will work hard to keep you sick, but there are tried and true methods that can help people into recovery. Twelve Step treatment programs provide a great resource for those who have come to the realization that they must change their behavior. The steps are not easy, but they are doable. Step One is admitting that you have a problem. Step Two is realizing that you are powerless to do anything about it on your own and you’re going to need help. Step Three is about learning how to trust a Higher Power (or spiritual source) with your problem and to learn how to rely on the direction and guidance of other recovering addicts.
Sending someone to rehab does not guarantee that they will have this awakening and this is very difficult for family members to understand. I often tell clients that recovery is a series of improvements and set-backs, so be prepared. Your loved one may go to rehab and get some of the tools they need for recovery, but may fall back into old habits as soon as they are released. Others may show steady improvement for months, but then relapse over seemingly insignificant circumstances. It can be frustrating and, like I said, downright scary. But it is important not to give up on the addicted person. Sure you may have to take a strong stance and set some very firm boundaries, but you can continue to pray and lift up that person’s problems to the Lord. A trained professional can help guide you through this difficult and painful process so that you can live a rewarding and rich life despite the storms that will come because of addiction.
Paula Lau, LPC, Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselor