The National Survey on Drug Uses and Health reports 21.5 million American adults (12 and older) battling a substance use disorder in 2014; 80% of whom struggle with alcohol abuse. One of 8 people struggle with alcohol and drug abuse simultaneously. Teens account for 1.3 million of those battling addiction. The co-morbidity (co-existence) of mental illness and substance abuse is 8 million, possibly more. To see more delineation of statistics by age, race, gender, please visit americanaddictioncenters.org
We all know someone struggling with addiction: alcohol, drugs, sex, food, sugar, cigarettes, gambling, shopping, and the list goes on and on. Many of us know multiple people who are either struggling to stay alive and/or aren't willing, ready or able (because the disease tells people they simply aren't able) to remain sober or free from addictive behaviors. How many of us try to help the person(s) by offering our support in innumerable ways, not precluding locking them in a room for hours with surveillance cameras so you know his/her/their every move? Extreme? yes.
More likely approaches and end results to helping loved ones:
-Connections to rehabilitative services both short and long term only to have them come out and return to their old behaviors.
- Allowing he/she/they to live with you so he/she/they can comfortably pick up the pieces of their lives which have been swallowed up and often destroyed by the priority of addiction...then witnessing the unraveling of yet another small recuperative state of abstinence.
- Encouraging other behaviors like exercising, church, change of social networks, only to witness compulsive lying and manipulative behaviors result due to unwillingness on part of person suffering.
- Listening, crying, praying, waiting, walking on eggshells, becoming resentful, passing the torch to another loved one for respite, waiting by the phone... when does this end?
- Attend prayer circles, accompany them or attend AA, GA, OA, Al-anon, etc.
The disease of alcohol and drug addiction wants people dead. Addiction, in general, is a prison of the mind and an unexplainable void only those suffering can understand.
So how do I sit here and watch this person I love (often times it's our family or spouse or best friend or celebrity crush) kill themselves or destroy his/her world?
It is impossible to change another human's behaviors, and the older we become, the easier it is to understand. However, watching addiction take the life of another is like trying to climb a Crisco covered slide on a playground or punching plexiglass in hopes of becoming free.
DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP!! But what if we took that same approach and applied it to our approach with those suffering. "Hey, don't beat yourself up. I can see how difficult this disease is and I know you don't want to live this way, but what are you currently willing to do? If nothing, what would have to happen for you to be willing to change?"
I am who I am because of what we all are. Not greater. Not less. We are fragile and vulnerable and eventually, we will become willing to heal or be healed.
Please stay tuned for more addiction blog content focused on prevention and awareness.