Some Things You Should Know About Addiction

Addiction affects far more of us than we think.

September is National Recovery Month, so I wanted to take some time in today’s post to talk about addiction and offer some information for those who have been affected by it in one way or another.

At first I didn’t want to write too many addiction-specific posts on this blog, instead deciding to talk about it in a way that tied in my own experience but also how it applied to everyday things that non-addicts could relate to.

What I’ve found over the years, however, is that you don’t have to be an addict to be affected by addiction. Family members, friends, and coworkers can influence our lives in significant ways. If any of these people begin to suffer from addiction, we suffer as well.

I could probably write forever on this subject, but I wanted to share a quick overview of addiction, both focusing on addicts themselves and also those affected by this terrible disease. I thought this month in particular would be a good time to share with you some things you should know about addiction.

Many people are affected by addiction. As family or friends of addicts, here are some things you should know about addiction from someone in recovery. #mentalhealth

ON THE ADDICT’S SIDE

This section is probably the hardest one to write. Not emotionally hard, but practically. One of the hardest things to do is try and explain addiction to someone who is not an addict. It doesn’t make sense, it’s an incredibly selfish disease, and if you haven’t been there, the explanations sound thin. I promise you, however, that every following point is valid and something I’ve personally experienced.

It’s not something we can control

I am an intelligent person. I have a degree in psychology and an almost doctoral degree in pharmacy. I’m even more educated on the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse than many people who suffer from addiction, yet this did nothing to stop the spiral that my life took.

If you are someone who can go out, have a few drinks, or even leave a half-full glass at the end of the night (who are you??), then this is one of the hardest things to conceptualize.

For addicts and alcoholics, we CAN’T do that. Literally, it’s like my mind and body are possessed and I can not stop until every drop of alcohol, every drug, is gone or I pass out and physically can’t operate my body anymore. Granted, this was my life as my addiction escalated, but I could feel the internal pull in this direction as the years went on.

This is what they mean when they talk about “obsessions and compulsions.” Addicts become obsessed with acquiring and using their drug of choice and the compulsion is the physical NEED to carry out this thought.

During one of the many times I tried to quit on my own, I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t buy heroin that day. I made it until noon, when I had one passing thought that I could possibly still use that day and do my schoolwork the next. In that split second, in that brief thought, my mind was made up. I literally could think of nothing else and had the phone in my hand not five minutes later.

So one thing to know if you don’t suffer from addiction is that saying “just STOP” to an addict is one of the most useless things you could ever say. We know it’s a problem (usually), we know there’s damage being caused, but we literally can’t. stop.

We know the damage we’re doing

This brings me to my next point. We may be living in a haze of alcohol or drug abuse, but we do know what’s going on. We know that we cause you pain, frustration, sleepless nights, and every other negative emotion brought on by this disease.

For some of us, this doesn’t factor in to our decision to continue using. For me, a person who feels quite deeply, it was one of the reasons that I kept my two lives so separate from each other. I couldn’t bear to hurt those people I cared about any more than I already had. I had virtually no friends during that time. The only people who saw how out of control I was becoming were those friends I would drink with during the summer. Once I started getting comments over and over again about their concern for me, I figured it was easier to just alienate everyone and isolate.

We know the damage we are doing to our relationships, but in the middle of an addiction, little else is important. Often, the knowledge of the pain we cause brings us even more shame at our inability to stop, which drives us back to our drug of choice. It’s a cycle and it’s not going to be over until we reach our breaking point.

We’re not going to change until we’re ready

That brings me to my last point about addiction (for today). If you’ve ever listened to stories of recovering addicts, you’ll often hear about their “rock bottom.” This is the lowest point in their addiction and the point where they decide they can’t live that way anymore.

The tough thing about recovery is that everyone is different. Everyone has a different pain threshold and a different breaking point. You can’t predict when a person will hit that bottom and things that you’d expect to be that life-changing point simply aren’t. Unfortunately, not everyone hits theirs before their addiction brings them down for good.

This is why some people have multiple attempts at rehab, periods of relapse, and staying clean and sober can be difficult. It’s frustrating and often devastating to watch someone you care about cycle through their own pain and destruction. You want to help. You want to fix it, but unfortunately this is a job for that person to do on his or her own.

ON YOUR SIDE

It’s not your fault

A lot of friends and family members often take the stress of addiction on themselves.

“I could have done more, I should have seen something, What could I have done differently?”

A person’s addiction is not your fault, just like it’s not their fault. Addiction is a disease that should be treated as one. I don’t think people sit around considering someone else’s medical condition their fault. WHY DID I GIVE THEM CANCER?? WHAT COULD I HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY SO THEY DIDN’T GET HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE??

Understand that none of it is your fault or your responsibility. If recovery is what the addict wants, it’s his or her responsibility to get it.

You need to take care of YOU

This is one of the hardest things to conceptualize if someone you care about is in active addiction. As much as you want to help and fix the situation, your own physical, emotional, and mental health is the most important thing.

  • set boundaries
  • make time for yourself
  • attend support groups
  • TALK about it

Figure out what YOU need to feel safe and have some peace of mind. If that means limiting your contact with that person, let them know. Stick to that boundary.

Oftentimes, family members will inadvertently end up enabling the addicted person because they don’t want them to get hurt or be in discomfort. They will allow them places to stay, buy alcohol to avoid them driving drunk, and other similar behaviors. Not only does this further the addict’s addictive behavior, but it causes you to spend far more time preoccupied with his or her thoughts and actions and less on your own.

Just like addiction is a selfish disease, so should be the way you deal with it. Your own peace of mind is incredibly important, so as hard as it may be for you to put some distance between you and those people you care about, it’s absolutely necessary. Let them know that you are there for them if they want it, but if you find yourself stressed out or unable to function as you normally would, you may need to take a step back.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Addiction is a terrible disease, and one that is hard to understand from both perspectives. Personally, I think we should all talk about it more, whether you’re suffering from it or someone you know is. Not everyone is comfortable with that and not everyone is as accepting to hear it, which I think is limiting in us working towards a solution and leaves everyone feeling alone and scared.

If you suffer from addiction, you’re not alone. If someone you know is having trouble with addiction, you’re not alone.

If you can’t find anyone to talk to, I’m always willing to listen and answer whatever I can whenever I can. Send me an email at erinsinsidejob@gmail.com, send me a message on Twitter or the other 1231546574 social accounts I have, and just know there’s someone to listen if you need it.

There’s also the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). If you think this post can help someone else, please share it. Get the conversation going.

The more we work to understand each other, hopefully the better off we’ll be.

Thanks for Amanda for letting me think out loud.

No questions today — feel free to comment about whatever you want. 🙂

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31 Comments

  1. September 15, 2016 / 5:43 am

    So much love for you, today, forever and always. When we met, you had very much gone through the major phases of recovery, but you wouldn’t have been able to write this post yet.
    The first part of this post–why you didn’t originally start out to write about addiction–reminds me so much of why I didn’t originally talk about Crohn’s. And each of these considerations reminds me of how I have encountered my own disease, but slightly different in that I worry about each of these things: how it effects people, my inability to change, etc.
    In my mind, the strongest people in the world are those who have to face chronic challenges. You are so brave, and so strong, and you deserve all the greatness in the world.
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    • erinsinsidejob
      September 16, 2016 / 3:20 pm

      Well thank you very much. I could say the same for you!

  2. September 15, 2016 / 6:21 am

    My brother has issues. He has since he was a teenager and now as a 30 year old it’s still going on. I grew up in so much turmoil because of the things he did. It’s hard to see him still doing those things to my parents now and my parents enabling him. I finally had to tell them a few years ago not to talk to me about him and cry about the latest episode until they are willing to stop enabling. The thing he does are just horrifying though and it’s sad how he takes advantage of my parents to get what he wants in those moments.
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    • erinsinsidejob
      September 16, 2016 / 3:21 pm

      Aw I’m so sorry. That sounds good that you’ve learned to set that boundary. It’s usually when we’ve had enough and just can’t bring it into our own lives anymore!

  3. Connie
    September 15, 2016 / 7:46 am

    This really hits home today. I have a 23 year old daughter who suffers from bi-polar and alcoholism. She has been in and out of hospitals since she was 15; in the last year, I’d say she’s been in-patient about six times. As a parent it is so hard to set boundaries. I feel responsible for her and I also feel a responsibility to society – to not make her a burden on anyone else. Today she is supposed to be heading back to inpatient treatment, she had been sober six months this time but, started drinking again a couple weeks ago and things have quickly gotten out of control. I keep praying that something will click and she will be able to do it this time. Thanks for your honesty.

    • erinsinsidejob
      September 16, 2016 / 3:23 pm

      Thanks so much for commenting Connie. I’m not a parent, so I can only imagine how hard it is to go through that roller coaster. Lots of prayers that she is able to find her way out of it all.

  4. September 15, 2016 / 8:06 am

    Thank you for sharing sweet friend. Yes, this “WE’RE NOT GOING TO CHANGE UNTIL WE’RE READY!” I don’t care who you are or what you think an addiction is, everyone is affected somehow. <3 your heart
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    • erinsinsidejob
      September 16, 2016 / 3:23 pm

      Absolutely! I’ve met so many people who have been impacted by it.

  5. September 15, 2016 / 8:54 am

    What Lindsay said: Thank you for being so transparent and sharing so that I won’t be judgmental or impatient when I have the opportunity to love others that are struggling with addiction. Actually I would say that I wasn’t addicted to drugs, but sometimes addictions to food or exercise can be strong too, and I’m so thankful for the way my family loved me and kept speaking truth in love to me. <3 you friend.
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    • erinsinsidejob
      September 16, 2016 / 3:24 pm

      Oh absolutely. This goes for any addiction — sex, gambling, food, shopping, etc. The addiction is really just a symptom of what’s going on inside.

  6. September 15, 2016 / 9:00 am

    Thank you.

  7. September 15, 2016 / 9:32 am

    It takes a lot of courage to share something to personal.

    I have a degree in additions counselling and it’s surprising how often addiction is swept under the rug and not talked about. Getting conversations happening is exactly what needs to happen.
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    • erinsinsidejob
      September 16, 2016 / 3:25 pm

      Agreed! You know, I’ve been talking about it so long that it’s really become second nature haha

    • erinsinsidejob
      September 16, 2016 / 3:25 pm

      Lots of love 🙂

  8. September 15, 2016 / 4:32 pm

    I always appreciate hearing about these things straight from someone who went through it. Thanks for sharing, this will help and encourage a lot of people!
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    • erinsinsidejob
      September 16, 2016 / 3:25 pm

      Hopefully! Thanks for reading!

  9. September 15, 2016 / 8:10 pm

    Addictions are so much more than people think. I think it’s really important for people to know that the person has to be the one to decide to recover, if they don’t choose it for themselves they will most likely eventually relapse. I also like that you say that the family/loved ones should not blame themselves! It breaks my heart when my parents ask if they contributed to my eating disorder in any way. It is no way their fault. Awesome post Erin!
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    • erinsinsidejob
      September 16, 2016 / 3:26 pm

      It’s so easy to take the blame on as parents but it’s really not their fault!

  10. September 15, 2016 / 8:15 pm

    I’m so, so glad you are open and continue to share your past and reach out to others.
    I’ve never struggled with addiction personally, but I have several in my family who have, and it’s so destructive and heart-breaking to watch. I think it’s so important to remind us that it truly is a DISEASE and not anybody’s fault. We need to talk about it more and erase some of the stigma so people can actually get the help they need.
    Catherine @ A Cup of Catherine recently posted…Finding Balance: My Experience with the Gerolsteiner Sparkling DetoxMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      September 16, 2016 / 3:27 pm

      Agreed! Hopefully it will get to a point where people can get the help they need without feeling stigmatized.

  11. September 16, 2016 / 1:23 am

    Hi Erin,

    Thank you for sharing you personal experience with us. It really requires to pour out your heart to write something non-fictional.

    Addiction, is definitely a war that can be won only with the will of the addict. And, as you say “wellness comes from withing”, truly holds right. We all can join hands and support the addicted people near us. This way they will constantly be motivated and won’t give up.

    All the very best, Erin 🙂
    Regards,
    Gary

    • erinsinsidejob
      September 16, 2016 / 3:28 pm

      Thanks Gary! It’s a tough thing to go through and sometimes even tougher to just be there for someone but it’s so important!

  12. September 17, 2016 / 11:06 am

    This post speaks to me, Erin! I think addiction can be scary, for all parties involved. And when I first dealt with someone who was addicted, I seriously thought they could just stop at a command. Naive! Now, although I still boggles my mind, I understand what you talk about above, especially how the people affected need to take care of themselves and find distance (even though we don’t want to)

    • erinsinsidejob
      September 19, 2016 / 9:01 pm

      It’s so hard to understand if you haven’t been there. I wish I could explain it better haha

  13. November 3, 2016 / 10:38 am

    Thanks for sharing this. Understanding addiction from both sides is so important for everyone to understand so you can help people if they need it. Addiction is tough but it can be helped by the right people with good intentions.
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  14. May 31, 2017 / 11:29 am

    This is one of the best descriptions of addiction I have ever heard. I felt the same way when I was drinking, causing chaos and knowing how much damage I was doing but not being able to stop. As soon as that switch was flipped in my mind, the decision was made, and I was on a mission. Thank you for sharing this!

    • erinsinsidejob
      May 31, 2017 / 1:17 pm

      Thank you Parker!! Congrats to you!

  15. July 15, 2017 / 4:57 pm

    I’m surprised I haven’t come across this post sooner. Erin, posts like these are truly helping me get through the turmoil that is watching someone you love with ALL of your heart go through their addiction. I’ve bookmarked this post to refer back to when I need, and have been reading your posts all day today. My would-be fiance is an alcoholic and prescription drug abuser and I made the decision at the end of last year to move out of our apartment and back in with my parents halfway across the country because I just needed to be physically away from the situation. We are still together, and he had been staying strong and sober since February, until just this past week when he relapsed. Reading this post reminds me to have patience. I know he WANTS to beat this. The desire is there. But I suppose something just hasn’t stuck yet. In any case, I want you to know I refer back to your blog and think of you often as inspiration that things can change for the better.
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    • erinsinsidejob
      July 18, 2017 / 6:50 pm

      Oh yes I’m glad you read this one. I hope it was helpful to you and I know your situation is super tough. Please let me know if you need anything and don’t hesitate to email me!!

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