Understanding Addiction

Vital Points about Addiction
The urgent need to address addiction today has been overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the ravages of addiction continue and it looks like have been made worse by the pandemic. There are several key concepts essential to grasp for a balanced understanding of addiction and what can be done.

Addiction Cannot be Controlled by the Addict or by Loved Ones
Often, family members––partners, spouses, children, parents, etc.––try to help by giving what they feel is support: money, a place to stay, second chances, another car, a job, bail money, and yet, the madness continues. This is called enabling and actually prolongs the problem.

The Addict is Not the Disease
Unchecked, the alcoholic/addict’s behavior at some point will become too painful for the loved ones to bear. Then, the only thing the family can do is protect themselves. This requires either professional help and/or attending helping groups3.

The Addict Runs the Family
The readers who have had the experience of a loved one with addiction will tell you, the alcoholic/addict and the addiction are the center of the family and the alcoholic/addict, essentially runs the family.

The Loved Ones and the Families Need Help Too.
Think of a tornado tearing its way through your house, turning everything upside down and inside out. This is what addiction can do to a family. And, the family will need repair. It takes work to resolve the resentments, the distorted communication patterns, the almost overwhelming guilt/blame, and confusion. The family needs recovery also.

Addiction Continues to Affect the Family for Generations if Unchecked
Families I have worked with, often feel that, since the addict has stopped using, is living in a different city, or has passed on, has been divorced, that the problem therefore has been solved. I’ve never seen one case where this is true.

I often have clients with issues such as anxiety or depression, and, when getting the family history discover that one or more of the family members (grandparents, uncles, etc.,) had problems with addiction. This affected the client’s parents and these patterns were passed on to the client in some way. We can’t just shut the door on a room destroyed by the tornado and consider the job done.

The Good News
There are many excellent resources for treatment; residential (long and short-term), outpatient services, group therapy, the groups mentioned earlier, and intensive individual counseling. Since addiction has become a prominent, national issue, there are more and more reliable resources for those affected by addiction3, directly or indirectly. Millions of addicts and families have recovered from their nightmare of addiction and live happy, productive, healthy lives.

Written By:​
Alfie Wishart, LPC, LCDC, CRC

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Footnotes

1. In this article, the term addiction refers to both alcoholism and drug addiction (whether the drugs are by prescription or illegal).
2. More than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a 2012 study. Alcohol sales have increased dramatically since sheltering in place: 27.1% for wine and 31.7% for spirits, and 243% increase in online alcohol of any type, according to a Nielsen study.
3. Groups such as Al-Anon, Families Anonymous, Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA), etc. Therapists experienced with addiction know of and can recommend the appropriate treatment for someone.

The references for Footnote 2:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Data Spotlight: More than 7 Million Children Live with a Parent with Alcohol Problems, 2012. Available at: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_3223/ShortReport-3223.html

The reference for the increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic:
https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2020/rebalancing-the-covid-19-effect-on-alcohol-sales/

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