Understanding Substance Addiction
Awareness for Parents and the Opportunity for Addicts to Heal
by Jake Kastleman
What do you often think of when asked to describe those who have a substance addiction?
Consecutive thoughts and labels maybe along the lines of: “druggies”, “delinquents”, “burnouts”, or “losers”. Those who do not understand why someone else would choose to partake of substances can sometimes perceive these suffering addicts as careless or even “stupid”.
But this is not the case…
Those addicted to substances have reasons for why they initially fell victim to them and continue to use them (outside of chemical dependency). Reasons can include things such as:
Many people deal with great fear and doubt in their lives. Some of these people can become vulnerable when substances become available. At first, they take them in a moment of weakness and peer pressure, feel an artificial relief that takes away some of these heavy burdens of anxiety, and this leads them to seek that high again and again. Simultaneously, it becomes more and more difficult for them to cope with life when they are not using. It is a vicious cycle.
Some sufferers of drug addiction also suffer from social anxiety. They feel highly socially inadequate, or even socially phobic. But in a Catch-22 kind of way, they still want to connect in relationships as we all do. So, they seek ways to nullify the anxiety, or ways to achieve higher social abilities in order to feel in control. Unfortunately, substances can appear to give this relief or these abilities for a while, but then end up doing the opposite with repeated use.
Many that turn to substances carries heavy emotional baggage from traumas of the past. These can include social, mental, emotional, and sexual traumas. Without the proper tools, knowledge, and support to work through traumas, substances can take the role of numbing. Though, it is altogether ineffective and short-lived, as it only buries the trauma deeper and fails to heal it.
Certain people that turn to substances live in a reality of heartache and suffering. They feel hopeless and helpless. Substances can become a temporary way of ridding themselves of this disconnection and melancholy. Though, in the process of doing so, they damage neurotransmitters in the brain and alter thought processes, hindering all joy and fulfillment in life in the long run. Thus perpetuating the further struggle.
Drugs are Socially Addicting
In addition to drugs being physically and emotionally addicting, they are socially addicting as well. The atmosphere and company can be highly enticing once a person is a part of the lifestyle, especially because it is “rebellious” and risky.
Teenagers are Risk-takers
Eventually, the individual’s entire social structure can come to consist of only drug users. When this occurs, it can appear that “everybody’s doing it”. In turn, they can lose sight of life and social opportunities outside of the drug world.
Also, it can be difficult and intimidating trying to transition to a sober group of friends once a user knows only one type of social setting. They can lose creativity in social activities as they are so used to taking drugs when they are with friends. Even if they do want to quit, quitting usually means leaving all of their close friends behind. This is a very difficult thing, especially for a teenager, but it is a necessary change for committed sobriety.
These are only some of the reasons that individuals struggle with substance addiction. Underlying each of these is pain, suffering, and difficulty in coping with the daily hardships that a person faces in life.
The more a person uses substances as their crutch, the less they can stand up on their own. Brain chemicals and habits kick in, and they become dependent. Fortunately, new habits can, in fact, be formed and the brain can be rewired to heal damages that have occurred. This can lead to a new, sober life for the individual, full of freedom and clarity.
It can be very difficult to face a situation in which you suspect your child or loved one is using drugs. The balance can seem delicate. You want to find out if they’re using so that you can help them out of the pit they are digging before it is too late, but also you don’t want to suspect them for fear that your suspicions are incorrect. You care about them though and you just want them to be happy.
Creating a Positive Mindset
Rather than confronting your child on the matter, do your best to approach them with a mindset of compassion and care. Let them know that you are interested in them and that you so badly only want them to be happy and have a future of success. Then, instead of asking them if they’ve been doing drugs, ask them about some of the behaviors you have witnessed and try to discuss these with them in as healthy of a way as you can. You could end up discovering that they are not using and that it has been something else creating their behavior the whole time.
Follow your gut. You know your child better than most. If you don’t feel right about the answer you receive, chances are your child could be lying to defend their crutch. Don’t take this personally. Understand that this is a means for their dealing with internal suffering and they will attempt to hide and defend it.
They need to be brought to the realization though that this will damage their lives. If you cannot motivate your child to pursue sobriety for themselves, remember that you are their parent, and as their parent, you have a responsibility for your child’s safety. You must take the necessary steps as their parent and their friend. Waiting will not do you or your child any good.
Utah Family Therapy specializes in helping teens and young adult addicts. We can guide your child to sobriety through education, motivation, empathy, and the building of real-life skills that will help them develop a life in which they no longer need substances to cope.
Utah Family Therapy will teach you and your child how to communicate with honesty and understanding. We incorporate your family and community in your child’s healing process in a unique way, using cutting-edge methods of Multi-systematic and Intensive Outpatient Therapy. We have trained experts in this field that will work with your child on a weekly basis. In addition, we have a daily Personal Mentor that understands your child’s situation and will help them work through their issues with the use of personal and professional experience in addiction recovery.
Give us a call at 801-901-0279
Utah Family Therapy is focused on helping your teenager, young adult and family find healing from substance addiction. We want to help you give your child the best chance possible for succeeding in life. If your child had a serious injury, you would want to take them to a specialist that deals specifically with their injuries; not a facility that does everything.
Call us now to confidentially speak directly with a therapist: 801.901.0279
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