It is so common nowadays to ask someone “What they do for a living” as a means of small talk. For 6 years my answer to this question was “I’m an addiction counselor” and as a response I would receive some variation of “Bless you, that must be so hard to work with them”. It took me a long time to realize that people did not know how to respond because of the stigma attached to addiction and mental illness in general.
There is a common misperception that some addictions are more “serious” than others, that alcohol addiction isn't as serious as an addiction to heroin, crack, or methamphetamine.
Common stereotypes paint images of alcoholics getting drunk at home and heroin addicts as engaged in criminal behavior, unemployed, homeless, or giving up on life. After all, alcohol is a legal and socially acceptable substance here in the U.S. Thus, it is perceived as less serious.
You might not think that your loved one’s substance use disorder is a family business, but their struggles are a complex battle that come with very real consequences to your family. Substance use disorder is often referred to as a family disease, which is true both from a genetic and social point of view.
You might already understand that there are physical, mental and societal challenges that come with substance use disorders and that jeopardize your family’s well-being. Let’s take a closer look at the true impact substance use disorder could be having on your family:
For many people, substance use disorder is more than just a physical struggle with drugs and alcohol; it takes root in unresolved issues, trauma and mental health. In fact, nearly 6 in 10 individuals who struggle with substance use disorder are also affected by at least one co-occurring disorder, making the acknowledgement or discovery of these conditions a critical component of treatment.
Retaining valued personnel is a key factor in the success of any business. When you have an employee who is battling a substance use disorder there are often several ways that it will impact your workplace – even if they are sober while they are on the job.
A key to component for recovery from substance use disorder is by setting S.M.A.R.T goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic & Time Bound). Goals help you prioritize, achieve your aspirations, augment your motivation for growth and enhance confidence and self-worth.
When someone suffers from a substance use disorder and a mental health or psychiatric disorder (such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, schizophrenia, OCD, or a personality disorder), the conditions are considered co-occurring because they are occurring at the same time.
Parents always worry about their kids. How they will do in school, who their friends will be, what will they do for work when they grow up and will they be healthy? These are natural worries of a parent. In addition, many parents worry about if their children will develop a substance use disorder (addiction). These thoughts are certainly in the minds of parents who suffer, or have suffered from, a substance use disorder themselves.
The previous blogs in this series explored Binge / Intoxication and Withdrawal / Negative Affect, the first two stages of the “Addiction Cycle”, and how substances take over the parts of your brain related to pleasure and stress and set the stage for feeling miserable when you don’t consume drugs or alcohol. These forces in your brain are very powerful. Yet, drugs and alcohol don’t stop there. They affect the part of your brain involved in decision making. So, while you may want to make the choice to stop, your brain’s decision making areas are fighting against you due to the effects of drugs and alcohol.
When you’re suffering from a substance use disorder, making the decision to get help is often difficult enough. Then you have to decide how to get help and try to understand the options for treatment. The ravaging effects of substances on the brain make that process even more difficult. Thankfully, a tool has recently been developed to help those who are trying to make treatment decisions.