Bringing Up Old Feelings
At some point during the recovery process, things will get very real. Understanding one’s addiction will eventually require some painful self-reflection. You’ll need to look at what caused you to succumb to the temptation that ultimately led to your addiction. Being honest with oneself is the only way to treat the root causes of your addiction. Family problems during recovery are very common and both the addict and his family members must approach recovery with their hearts and minds open.
As you look back to theses things, you might find that your addiction was caused by any number of things. Here are some of the more prevalent influences:
- Rejection – either by a parent, a family member or partner;
- A general lack of love – being part of a family or a relationship where you don’t feel loved might play a role;
- A lack of understanding – especially true among younger addicts as they struggle to transition from those awkward teen years where they don’t fit in socially;
- A lack of attention – parents who aren’t actively involved in their children’s lives effectively give up their role as parents to the child’s peers. The child may do anything to feel welcome among his peers and experimenting with substances can occur;
Dealing With The Things That Drove You To Addiction
While the above points are just a few examples, there’s more to addiction than certain needs not being met.
In many cases, addicts are dealing with feelings of inadequacy or have self-esteem issues. Under severe conditions, it’s not uncommon to look for an escape. People with these characteristics are especially sensitive to verbal abuse. Continued verbal abuse can play a big role in self-esteem.
In cases where love is absent from a home, a divorce might trigger a profound reaction and conceivably, drive one to the “escape” offered by substances.
A failed marriage or romantic relationship can be another trigger.
Physical or sexual abuse can be one of the most powerful triggers of addiction.
These events, as tragic as they might be, are usually not enough to plunge someone into addiction. There are deeper issues, sometimes going back decades, that have torn down the will power, self-esteem and self-control that most people possess.
As the addict descends further and further into an abyss, at some point, it’s time to call an addiction hotline.
Mental health issues, large or small, can play a role in one’s addiction. While the addict might not even be aware that he’s suffering from some sort of mental issue, it’s important to look at this during recovery. Treating co-occurring disorders is essential to a proper recovery plan as ignoring the issue is a recipe for relapse.
A proper treatment facility will conduct a diagnosis to determine whether or not any existing mental illness issues exist and can help develop a treatment plan.
One of the family problems during recovery is understanding that other family members might think everyone is capable of managing stress in the same way. An addict feels compelled to abuse when stress levels reach a threshold that is almost always far lower than that of a non-addict. As such, it’s tempting for parents to tell their kids to “suck it up,” but the reality is that no amount of tough love will change how an addict copes with his emotions or stress.
The truth is that everyone manages stress differently. Beating addiction will require re-training of the addict’s brain to cope with stress, channel their energy and resolve conflicts.
Escape From Reality
One of the saddest things we hear from recovering addicts is that their addiction served as an escape. In some cases, it was escape from a hostile home setting. In others, it was living in a town with no opportunity. In others, it was physical or sexual abuse.
For people in these settings, addiction provided a way to cope with harsh realities of their daily lives. Family members were either uneducated, disinterested or unequipped to counsel or comfort the addict before he started abusing substances.
Others turn to addiction after major setbacks in their life. These might include a divorce, failed romance or job loss. Depression, if not treated quickly, can turn into something far more serious and ugly.
Dealing With Family Problems During Recovery
Who’s really to blame for one’s addiction? One of the family problems during recovery is the temptation to place blame squarely on the shoulders of the addict. While it’s true the addict made a choice to get high the first time, continuing substance abuse is not a choice – it stems from chemical changes in the brain.
The addict is less motivated to initiate change or seek treatment when a part of him recognizes the addiction as a form of escape from his seemingly unpleasant reality.
Repairing broken relationships is part of the focus of recovery. This can only be done when the addict is clean, sober and has the presence of mind to recognize that his actions were harmful to others. By the same token, family members must acknowledge and take ownership of their role in the addiction.
As counseling continues, at some point, a recovering addict will get the opportunity to sit with his family members and speak openly about what drove him to addiction. Family members are often shocked to learn that they weren’t there in the time of need. Addicts are similarly shocked to learn that their families simply didn’t know what to say or do.
These sessions sometimes start off angry and confrontational but then can become healing and reinvigorating.
Family problems during recovery are natural. Some family members will not like what they hear when they realize they played at least some role in the addiction. Whether it was enabling, denial, inattention or abusive behavior, honesty and openness is necessary on both sides.
The “awakening” we see in recovering addicts is especially interesting. With all transgressions laid bare on both sides of the addiction, the true healing can begin.