National Recovery Month is a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those living in recovery.
Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The most prevalent addictions include: Tobacco, Alcohol, Marijuana, and Painkillers. Above all, the most important thing to know is recovery is possible.
Due to the overwhelming stigma attached to addiction, there are quite a few misunderstandings and stereotypes you may have internalized. We’ll set a few things straight so you can be the best support you can be.
What it Looks Like
Addiction causes, behaviors, and treatments will look different for each person. Some of the main risk factors and causes for addiction include: Genetics, Environmental Factors, and mental illness. Addiction will interfere with daily life, relationships, career, and day to day responsibilities.
Drug Addiction is a Choice
The initial decision to use drugs was likely voluntary, but the subsequent drug use is the result of brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist urges to take them.
It is not a matter of “just stopping,” addiction alters the brain, creating powerful cravings and compulsive use.
You Can’t Help an Addict
This is a harmful belief. While it’s true this is a brain-altering disease that will require a lot of work to overcome, support and connection to help is important. Addicts don’t need to hit rock bottom and don’t have to want help for your support and programs to make a difference. Most addicts aren’t ready for help, but the sooner it’s started, the better.
If your loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, it is crucial you remain a person they can trust and confide in. Focus on building a strong relationship where you are there for them and are a safe place where they can come for help.
As you build trust, be honest and share your love and concern for them. Educate yourself about the addiction and what to expect. Be frank about treatment and options for help with addiction, but do not show judgment, insulting them, or force anything.
Also, take care of yourself. Supporting someone with an addiction is exhausting and can have a negative impact on your own mental health. Consider therapy for yourself to be sure you’re able to give the support they need.
Support in Addiction Recovery
Your loved one has finally agreed to move forward with recovery. This is an incredible milestone, but there are still things to keep in mind to be the best support you can be.
Therapy, group therapy, and other routes of recovery are deeply personal and private. Unless they are offering information, don’t expect these things to be shared.
Don’t enable it! This means you need to disconnect yourself from their decisions and allow them to feel the impact of their addiction (financially or whatever that may be).
Have realistic expectations: It would be great if an addict was just a few days away from a sober life once they decided to take it seriously, but it does take a lot of effort and their body will be sending every signal to give in.
WHEN IN DOUBT, BE THERE
The ins and outs of addiction, mental illness, rehabilitation, recovery, and relapse can feel daunting. It’s normal to feel scared and unsure where you fit in your loved one's life as they struggle with addiction. While your love, understanding, and support are huge in their effort to recover, you can’t forget about caring for yourself. When it feels like too much, take a step back.
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