Addiction Recovery and The Importance Willingness
Only the suffering addict can decide to be willing. Why can’t the addict stop using drugs/alcohol without willingness? The answer is simple. Just like virtually any other disease, it will get worse unless the addict is willing to seek help.
By Charles Robinson, Executive Clinical Director, Clean Recovery Centers
Seeking out treatment is critical
Those with cancer have little chance unless they are willing to go to the doctor and take the prescribed medications and treatments. Even very lethal forms of cancer can be eradicated today. That’s great news. But the patient must seek professional advice and then follow the prescribed treatment regimen.
It is no different with drug/alcohol addiction. Once the person is willing to seek treatment and then follow the treatment regimen, they almost invariably get well. And like the person afflicted with cancer, if the treatment is stopped, the disease comes back, ever growing and worse.
A deceitful condition
There’s a big difference between people suffering from addiction and suffering from a disease like cancer. The addict has a condition that tells them they are not addicted. You can deny that you have cancer, but the cancer does not tell the person that he or she doesn’t have it.
The default thinking of the suffering addict is that they do not have the condition, using is not the problem and everything wrong is someone else’s fault. Thus, the obsession to use continuously grows. Suffering addicts in the depths of their disease cannot differentiate the truth from the false. The area of the brain where judgment takes place is not accessed in the thought development process. The resulting behavior is that of someone who appears quite often insane.
Focus on what’s right with the addict
How does the suffering addict become willing? Love and support of friends and family is essential. A key is feedback geared towards what is right with the addict and not what is wrong. Remember, an addict at the depths of their disease feels a level of guilt, shame, and remorse that are indescribable. Attacks by family members, spouses, children and others may only serve to make the addict worse and even more unwilling.
Don’t make things worse
I understand that it may be very difficult for family members and friends to accept this. The addict’s untreated disease has not only destroyed their life, but often has had a devastating impact on those they love the most.
It is easy for family and friends to attack and blame because of this. When one has cancer, rarely are the loved ones hurt in this manner. But addiction is a chronic disease of the brain and the side effects are often extremely negative and dangerous behaviors. I can assure you, attacking the suffering addict will only make things worse.
“Why me? Why not you?”
Family and friends of the addict often feel jilted by life. They ask, “Why me? I want no part of this!” My response is usually, “Why not you?” What is so special and unique about your life that this should never happen to you?”
What would you do if this person lost his or her arms or legs in an accident? Would you leave them out in the cold or treat them poorly? Would you turn your back on them? Would you blame them or call them names? What if you had a child with a severe mental handicap? What if your mother or father developed Alzheimer’s? How would you react to the loved one suffering in these cases?
Seek help for your own problems
Family and friends are often not well themselves. Being part of the suffering addict’s negative consequences can be devastating. I strongly encourage these people to have the willingness to get help themselves.
And there is much help available if they are willing to seek it. I have seen many people who refuse seek help for their own problems continuing to blame the addict for everything. The result of this unwillingness normally results in the person becoming more maladaptive to life, and the suffering addict gets worse. In short, taking such an approach makes absolutely no sense though many pursue it anyway.
Address your feelings
I am not suggesting that family and friends of the addict have no cause for being hurt, upset or vengeful. But not addressing these feelings can only do more harm to the person feeling this way and to the suffering addict.
Don’t enable the addict
Also, I am not suggesting that you enable the addict. Perhaps you need to separate yourself and other loved ones from the addict for a time. This happens quite often. You may have to tell the addict that you love them so much that you can’t watch this continue to happen. If they want to seek help, you will be there to support them. But you should never verbally or physically abuse the suffering addict unless your true intention is to make them worse.
Lack of empathy is devastating
What the is one thing that can destroy a suffering addict’s willingness? It is lack of empathy from spouses, children, family and friends. Name-calling, blaming, looking down on the addict, hurtful and snide comments can be enough to put an addict over the edge. This can result in even more horrible consequences for the addict and those around them, up to and including suicide.
What to do
The suffering addict’s best chance at recovery is when those supporting him continuously express hope, optimism, and positivity. This is critical because the most effective recovery is self-directed, strengths-based, and empowerment-based. Recovery is not possible without meaning, purpose, goals, housing, work, and personal development.
In summary, willingness is critical for the suffering addict. And the addict’s support system can negatively or positively impact this.
The best outcomes occur when the addict’s support system is willing to change, be open-minded, and realize that this is an actual disease. They understand that the addict needs help and support to overcome it. Yes, there are cases where this support is not in place to this degree but the person still recovers. But my experience has shown that these cases are rare and much needless suffering takes place.