Common Traits in Alcohol & Drug Addiction Therapy

Addicts Are Powerless Over Their Addiction

A very common problem when it comes to alcohol and drug addiction is that many people still cling to the idea that an addict can simply stop. Truth be told, without doing any research, or knowing someone who struggles with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it may seem like a simple fix: just stop doing the bad thing, right? Wrong. This mentality was actually the one that would be employed in treatment for decades and, unsurprisingly, was unsuccessful.

“The whole idea of how substance abuse has developed over the years, I think, is fascinating. In a real sense, it started out just telling somebody to ‘knock it off’… which was not terribly sophisticated,” says Jef Gazely, a licensed therapist with multiple specialties. Back in the 1930s a group called Alcoholics Anonymous, commonly known as AA, was formed and began this notion that the alcoholic was a victim of something greater than just weak willpower. AA developed a set of 12-steps, an idea, that an addict was powerless over his or her addiction, and as a result could not overcome it on their own. As the years went by, scientists and therapists began looking into this model, now known as the Disease Model, and have found profound evidence supporting the idea.

Today, many organizations view addiction as a disease that affects the mind and body. Even the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) strongly support the disease model due to overwhelming evidence.

An Addict’s Recovery Involves Family

Another common trait found in addiction therapy is family issues. “We realized that kids who grew up with parents who were addicted probably didn’t get the parenting they should have.” Gazely is referring to a multitude of factors here. Children who grow up with addicted parents can suffer from a variety of issues both physical and mental. These factors can be anything from violent or sexual abuse to developing co-dependence issues, to severe neglect.

This further enforces the fact that addiction doesn’t just ruin the life of the victim, but can greatly impact the lives of everyone around that person as well. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), an estimated 80 percent of domestic violence incidents involved drugs or excessive alcohol consumption. The NCADD also cited that nearly 50 percent of prison and jail inmates suffer from clinical addiction.

Can Family Be Too Invested In An Addict’s Recovery?

We asked Gazely if it was possible for someone to be too invested in someone else’s recovery. Gazely responded, “Absolutely.”

“If someone has a drug or alcohol problem, it’s as if they’re having a heart attack, and if somebody is having a heart attack you’re going to focus totally on that person, you’re going to forget yourself.” This makes total sense: if someone in the room suddenly keels over, all attention is going to go onto that person. Your own physical, emotional, and mental needs are going to be put on the bench until you know that person is going to be okay. The same comes with addiction: when family finds out someone among them has a serious issue, they are going to invest in that person and try to help them. But here is what Gazely has to say about that:

“Except that the alcoholic or the drug addict never stops having a heart-attack. So eventually you forget your own needs and get horrendously co-dependent.” It can be hard to think that caring about someone else and putting them first in times of need can be a bad thing. However, if someone you love is suffering from an addiction then one of the best things that you can do is to take care of yourself as well as supporting them. If your own health falters, they may then abandon their own recovery to help you. Again, while this may not be a bad thing up front, without completing treatment and therapy, the addict is susceptible to relapse. Keep yourself healthy, set a good example, and stay strong while you support this person in their strife.

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