What Does it Mean to be Willing?
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, Clinical Director, Clean Recovery Centers
People ill 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 but not without the willingness of the patient to 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 out treatment and then follow the prescribed 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
What is somewhat different with people suffering from addiction is that they have a condition that tells them they do not have it. One can be in denial that you have cancer, but the cancer does not tell the person that he or she does not have it. This is the reason why willingness is perhaps more important to begin treatment for addiction.
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.
HOW DOES A PERSON BECOME WILLING?
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 MAKES 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 it often has had a tremendously negative and 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.
Family and friends of the addict often feel jilted by life – jilted because they are the ones with a father, mother, sister, brother, spouse or friend who suffers from addiction. 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?
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 OWN FEELINGS
I am not suggesting that family and friends of the addict have no cause for being hurt, upset or vengeful. What I am suggesting is that not addressing these feelings can only do the person feeling this way and the suffering addict more harm.
Also, I am not suggesting that you enable the addict. It could very well be that you need to separate yourself and other loved ones from the addict for a time. This happens quite often. The family member, friend or spouse may have to tell the suffering addict that they love them so much that they can’t watch this happen any longer and, if they want to seek help, they will be there to support them.
But at no time should they verbally or physically abuse the suffering addict
unless their true intention is to make them worse.
WHAT NOT TO DO
If there 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 as 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 their support system can negatively or positively impact this. The best outcomes occur when the addict’s support system has a willingness 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 more needless suffering takes place.
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