No one can ever really walk in someone else’s shoes. You might think you know how another person feels. You might be able to describe it with perfect accuracy. But knowing the facts of what happens when fire burns your skin will not allow you to understand how it feels.
For this reason, it is difficult to comprehend what your family will go through as you battle drug addiction. And if you have a loved one who is battling drug addiction, it is difficult for other people to imagine what you are dealing with for the same reason. But it is not impossible.
This is a brief guide on what is going on with people who are dealing with drug addiction. Our goal here is to help bridge the gap of understanding between the addict and their family.
Because one of the biggest obstacles in overcoming addiction is understanding. Addicts need to understand what is happening to them, as do their families. But more than that, addicts and their families need to understand each other. That understanding is key to offering help and support.
What is Happening Inside an Addict?
One of the key issues that people run into when dealing with a friend or family member that is suffering from some sort of addiction is understanding what is going on inside them. After all, addicts are characterized as starting as normal people before their substance abuse begins affecting their personality and decision making. So, what causes these changes?
There are essentially two layers to what is going on with an addict: The chemical changes caused by addiction, and the emotional changes caused by addiction. Part of what makes humans so fascinating is the fact that we are basically just highly complex chemical reactions.
Granted, we are some of the most complex chemical reactions to ever exist. And while materially we may be made up of chemicals, those chemicals interact to produce something that cannot be quantified: Our emotions, which can then go on to motivate chemical reactions.
The Physical Changes
At its core, addiction is a physical experience. The precise nature of the physical experience is determined by what the addict is dependent upon. Opioid drugs, for example, disrupt the functions of opioid receptors in the body, making the addict euphoric while using them and in constant pain while not using them. Alcohol addiction affects tons of different parts of the body.
This is all to say that the addict does not get a choice in whether or not they crave the substance to which they are addicted. If you hit your knee, it will reflexively jerk in response. If you do not eat, your stomach will reflexively ache with hunger. The same is true for addiction.
If the addict does not use, their body will do all sorts of terrible things to signal to them that they have a craving. The body has essentially been reprogrammed to think it will die otherwise.
The Emotional Changes
It is important to situate those physical changes within the context of the addict’s emotional experience. Like we said, the addict gets no say in whether or not they have a craving. They do get a degree of control in how they react emotionally to the craving, but even that is limited.
Experts on the subject say that every addict they have talked to is conflicted on the matter of their own dependency. There are times when it seems totally natural. There are also times when they know on some level just how unnatural and damaging it is.
This can lead the addict to erratic highs and crippling lows.
What this Does to a Family
Now that we have the groundwork of understanding what an addict is going through, we can explore how this impacts the people around them. If a family member of yours told you they were starving to death, then you would probably put everything else aside to help them.
But what if they told you they were starving to death every day? That would complicate things.
Those erratic highs and crippling lows will also mean that the addict will have trouble holding down a job if they are not using at least a little. That is assuming they are not completely debilitated by their addiction, as many addicts are. This means they require financial support.
The addict is a victim of their own vice, but they are not the only victim. They will get unwillingly irritable when deprived of their dependent substance, and even the most patient family member will have trouble dealing with them. One can harbor a degree of patience for an addict’s issues, but even the most patient family member has their own physical and mental limits.
What to do About a Family Member that is an Addict
Many people who have addicts in their family have the same questions: What can be done? How is it done? When can one find the time to do it? To begin with, what you need to do if you are an addict or know an addict is get the road to recovery started as soon as possible.
That means either weaning them off of their vice or quitting entirely. How this is done depends on the recovery service they go to. Whether it is a doctor, a detox center, or rehab clinic.
But regardless of where you go, they will tell you the same thing: Recovery is possible. Whether it is a father or mother, a brother or sister, a son or daughter, you can reclaim what their substance abuse stole from them. It will just take time and patience.
If you do not know whether or not someone is an addict, you can read the article here for the warning signs. Breaking through the barrier of getting them to admit they have a problem is a huge first step, and sometimes requires outside intervention. So, don’t be afraid to pry.