Sometimes, people don’t understand why it is so hard for those who use substances to simply stop using. They may assume that the individual has no will power or is apathetic. Family and friends could be struggling with conflicting feelings of care, love, and hope, but also feelings of resentment, mistrust, or guilt. The delicate web of relationships that those struggling with addiction have may seem to be disintegrating with each sweep of the wind. Family and friends are on the other end of that web and maybe struggling too; they can be suffering from unattended emotional trauma from the stress and burden they take on. The good news is, there are dedicated programs available to assist in healing these cherished connections.
Understanding Addiction as a Disease
Drug addiction is a challenging disease to heal from. And it is, indeed, just that; a disease. The statistics are startling: 61 million Americans are misusing alcohol, and seven million have a drug-related substance use disorder, including substances like heroin, meth, cocaine, or prescription drugs.
When being understood as a disease, it makes it easier for some to empathize with the monumental but possible challenge of quitting. Drugs have a tricky way of rewarding our brains with feelings of euphoria; they flood the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure within our internal reward system. When this system is working well, it triggers the repetition of healthy actions or activities that satisfy us. Those enjoyable activities often include things that enable us to thrive, such as engaging in familial connections and eating yummy foods when we are hungry.
Dopamine impacts other areas, such as mental, emotional, and motor reactions. While dopamine is critical to our everyday functioning, too much of it can result in serious health problems, like an addiction. Addiction can impair learning, memory, judgment, and more. Drugs and alcohol trigger our internal reward system to repeat the same pattern repeatedly. Through continued use, drugs and alcohol cause individuals to build up a tolerance; this means they require more substances to achieve the same euphoria. It also reduces the ability to feel pleasure in other areas that individuals typically enjoy, such as food, sex, hobbies, and activities with family and friends. In biology, we call this a positive feedback loop. This loop transforms a healthy, functioning mind into a diseased one that requires support and care.
It Takes a Village to Raise a(n) Child Adult
The causes of addiction are still a hot topic of research, but one area that could be useful and practical to pay closer attention to is an individual’s support system. Sometimes, addiction may indicate that some vital aspect of a person’s connections with others is dysfunctional or lacking. Addiction can further exacerbate these bonds with the self and others, making the whole task of recovery even harder; this is where family and friends can help. As the African proverb goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but perhaps, it also takes a village to continue guiding its adults.
Family and friends can think about their role in their loved one’s journey and how it impacts their capacity to be supportive. It is not uncommon for dysfunctional roles to unconsciously develop as family and friends seek normalcy. For example, family members may try to use their success and accomplishments to distract others from the shame felt around the individual struggling with addiction. Others may take on comedic roles to downplay the disease’s severity to gain some sense of stress relief. Another member might internalize their emotions and avoid addressing the issue altogether. Then, the troublemaker may distract the unit from the real problem. And finally, one may become an enabler of the individual struggling, excusing their behavior and fostering conditions for their addiction to continue. Meditating on one’s own psychological state and actions can open up opportunities for identifying healthy strategies for being supportive during this time.
Like that of Oceanfront Recovery, dedicated facilities offer a safe space for families to do just that: engage in the recovery process with their loved ones and start the healing of damaged bonds. Along with their specialized addiction treatment therapy programs in Laguna Beach, their family program:
- Helps families create healthy boundaries
- Build trust and bonds
- Become supportive without enabling
- Provide a safe space for family members to talk about how addiction has impacted them
The program educates families on specifics like what they can control in a particular situation and what they cannot and refocus energy and care back into themselves and improving their connections. Taking a wholesome approach to engaging the family unit and examining the existing bonds and emotions can prove critical to identifying underlying issues or growth and healing opportunities. Such an approach can be essential to a recovering patient’s success.
Addiction is a disease that transforms the way an individual thinks and feels daily. They are often not the only victims of their addiction; their families are too. Loved ones may suffer from stress, conflict, guilt, and emotional trauma, fostering the conditions for dysfunctional family dynamics to develop, which exacerbates the issue at hand. At Oceanfront Recovery, we see family involvement as a crucial piece of the recovery process. We offer family therapy alongside our addiction treatment programs to heal individuals struggling with addiction and restore their family bonds. Family members and their loved ones struggling will have the opportunity to express themselves in a safe and productive space. They will also learn about the addiction itself and practical tools for moving forward, such as identifying negative behavioral patterns, creating healthy boundaries, and reducing feelings of shame and guilt. The power of a cohesive, encouraging, and grounded family unit to lift each other out of hard times can be profound and life-changing. Discover your family’s potential at Oceanfront Recovery today: (877) 279-1777.