Discovering Who You Are After Addiction

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

In active addiction, much of what we identify with is in direct relation to our addiction. In fact, many of us become quite known for our partying antics. Unfortunately, some of us become less labeled as the life of the party and more associated with the legal issues we find ourselves in as a result of the party.

Whether our reputation as an active addict becomes one of popularity among groups which have seemingly perverted the definition of fun, or finds us labeled “the black sheep,” our identity becomes defined by the drugs we do, alcohol we use, dealers we know, bars we frequent and friends (or enablers) we find in active addiction. That fact leaves the majority of us who enter treatment grieving not only our substance of choice and the connections we had, deemed toxic during recovery, but our very identity as well.

Because that can pose a very real and challenging threat to our longevity in recovery, we must find ways to discover who we are after addiction. Here are some steps to take in an effort to do just that:

  1. Shift your perspective. When we enter into recovery, it is vital to our success that we switch our perspective from one that sees a lost identity to a view which gently reminds us we simply gained one. We are now in active recovery, and that will be a new, positively-defining part of our identity. That does not deny us our need to grieve. However, it does give us a way to maintain gratitude and hope for a new normal within our experience of grief.

 

  1. Get back to basics. Entering treatment may threaten the identity we have unfortunately embraced throughout our active addiction, but it does not rob us of our basic identifiers. Our gender, race, culture, religion, ethnicity, etc., are still intact. Moreover, our role as daughter, son, brother, sister, mother, father, aunt, uncle, family member and friend are not lost to us. In fact, many of those aspects are potentially strengthened. Returning back to basic identifying factors can help us ground ourselves in times where we feel as though we have no anchor.

 

  1. Embrace the new. Change is not easy for anyone. It can be a terrifying experience, even when we are aware that which we are leaving behind was destroying us. It is the fear of the unknown. And, as such, it is a common one which branches far beyond that experienced by active addicts entering into recovery. However, if we merely embrace the new life that lies before us and the simple fact that we get a chance to actually live it, we have a better chance of not only discovering who we are after addiction, but falling in love with the newfound freedom to become whatever we dream.

 

Though the challenges to losing a sense of one’s identity can be overwhelming, the aforementioned simple steps can truly lessen that load. Though the grief will still be valid and certainly needs to be processed, the journey forward will be an easier one if we are open to the progress. A great recovery community, addiction specialists and counselors can assist with the journey as well.

It Will Hurt—A Reminder to Recovering Addicts, “You Are Supposed to Feel Pain”

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Throughout life, all individuals experience a wide range of emotion. Everything from joy and ecstasy to grief and depression is possible. However, not everyone is comfortable with or even willing to accept variations of the latter. And, with regard to emotional pain, addicts are especially quick to kick and scream or attempt an avoidance or escape tactic.

The latter is due to one simple fact; they’ve spent the duration of their addiction and then some trying desperately to suppress and deny pain.

Active addicts typically utilize their substance of choice as a means or method of achieving that end. In fact, the drugs and alcohol begin to suppress and dull emotions so well, addicted individuals become seemingly numb. To a degree, that experience mirrors the initial stage of grief; denial. Incidentally, the latter is of course also exactly where active addicts typically sit with regard to their disease and the need for help.

But, in defense of active addicts everywhere, the state of denial isn’t populated by addicts alone. Generally speaking, it’s where humans feel safe and secure. It’s one reason any truth that shakes the core of one’s beliefs or forces feelings by shedding light on tragedy or injustice is typically met with resistance and distortion. To attempt to force anyone out of denial is to potentially actively engage in war with one’s ego.

Ego. It is the forerunner in the perpetuation of active addiction, and it’s not big on humility, accountability, personal growth or pain. And, as such, active addicts who are seemingly controlled by ego continue to refuse to deal with themselves, their underlying emotional or mental issues or the disease of addiction, itself. They remain in denial and defend their state with the fervor of native Texans.

That’s one reason rock bottom isn’t always low enough. The pain has to be so great that it outweighs any level of intoxication and outnumbers the enablers left standing in false support. More importantly, the active addict has to come to realize that the substance of choice is no longer suppressing or numbing pain, but seemingly adding to it.

That wakeup call occurs in seconds, and unfortunately it can be quite fleeting. Why? Because pain, however, is not.

Pain lasts longer than detox. It extends past twenty-eight days. And, typically speaking, when the drugs, alcohol and numbness wear off and the physical ramifications of withdrawal have dissipated, the guilt, shame, grief and pain floods in, along with numerous other overwhelming and sometimes mixed emotions.

Additionally, the grief alone is a process. And, generally, it is intensified in recovery because addicts must let go of everything they know, including themselves, or at least the identity they have acquired during their active addiction. As such, emotional recovery becomes a vital piece of recovering from addiction.

However, not all recovering addicts seek or receive emotional recovery; a fact which may contribute greatly to the staggeringly high statistics on relapse. But, for the record, there isn’t an individual alive—addicted, recovering or not—who couldn’t benefit from emotional growth and healing. Why? Because everyone experiences pain. Everyone.

The experience of pain doesn’t always equate a diagnosis. More often than not, it’s simply part of being human. We are meant to feel pain. To deny, suppress, avoid and escape pain only prolongs and ultimately intensifies and multiplies it. In fact, eventually, the unresolved painful emotions can have a very detrimental physical effect.

Part of successful recovery is realizing it will hurt. Recovery, personal growth, letting go, starting over, being born again—whatever label is placed on the process, it will hurt. Why? Because it is birth; the birth of a new you.

And, yes. You are supposed to feel pain. Moreover, you are supposed to feel. Period. It is one way to know you are more than just merely alive. You’re living.

3 Reasons Why You May Need a Rock Bottom

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Rock bottom is a term I’ve heard since I was a little girl. Why? Because my mother was a heroin addict.

Fortunately, my grandparents were around to raise me. But, regardless of that fact, the absence of my mother was painful and confusing. For her, seeing the broken heart of her own child was not enough to force her to get help. In fact, nothing was.

Placed in rehab against her will numerous times, recovery never stuck. The only explanation I ever heard was a simple yet then bewildering one; “She just hasn’t hit rock bottom.”

Evidently, for my mother, the pain never outweighed the level of intoxication she could reach to numb it or the number of enablers left standing to rescue her from it.

That last statement is one which generally applies to all active addicts, and it explains why the vast majority need a rock bottom in order to seek help.

Why Some Might Not Agree

Though there are some in recovery who might argue this point, saying they never actually hit an all-time low but simply decided to quit, the vast majority require varying degrees of low points to decide enough is enough. Additionally, there is another group who might challenge this point of view; the sober individuals who don’t necessarily refer to themselves as recovering, mainly because the affiliation with the recovery community implies a stint in treatment and the need to work a program to maintain sobriety and achieve successful recovery. As such, these individuals typically don’t claim a rock-bottom low point either.

But, regarding the above instances, it is important to keep in mind those individuals who merely made a conscious decision to quit without need for piling personal, financial and legal consequences or assistance to acquire and maintain sobriety may have been struggling with substance abuse rather than the disease of addiction.

Why Some Never Hit a Rock Bottom

There are individuals who are enabled heavily by family and friends. That fact does not stop them from entering a treatment program. In fact, the family often forces them to go, paying high prices for their care and rehabilitation, visiting if allowed and funding their second, third or fourth chance after leaving treatment.

And, in those instances, the constant financial support and connections with family members and friends prevent the addicted individual from reaching rock bottom. Sure. They may hit a low point. But, if during that struggle, they can call a friend or family member who will attempt to rescue them from their pain by way of emotional or financial support, they do not actually bottom out.

Instead, they are saved from the opportunity to hit that needed rock bottom and, as such, their chance to contemplate change is stolen from them by someone who typically intends to help. But, in these cases, helping is enabling.

What is Rock Bottom?

Rock bottom is not simply a low period. It is a point where all feels lost, as a result of active addiction. Friends, family, finances and possibly even freedom are gone. At this point, if no one steps in to rescue, the active addict will have to sit with the dire consequences of their disease.

3 Reasons Why You Need It

  1. It’s Like Any Other Disease. With regard to addiction as defined by the disease model which implies it is chronic, progressive and potentially fatal if not treated, a rock bottom is typically required to necessitate change. And, incidentally, treatment and recovery is the component needed to spur perspective and lifestyle changes in an effort to survive the disease.

Moreover, regarding any disease, symptoms may be ignored for some time. It is typically only   until these symptoms become so life-                 altering that they are no longer manageable that  individuals seek help. Addiction is clearly no exception.

 

  1. Sitting With Pain Spurs Contemplation. When left to sit at rock bottom without hope of being pulled up while still in active addiction or without consenting to treatment, the individual will typically realize that to be able to restore all the elements lost to them—family, friends, finances, freedom, etc.—they must get help for their addiction and enter into recovery.

 

  1. With Every Rescue, Rock Bottom Gets Lower. That’s one reason rock bottom isn’t always low enough; because some are never actually allowed to hit it until it’s rock bottom has descended to six feet under. The active addict has to be allowed to sit with consequences and with their pain. Even if a great deal of their initial story involves pain which was inflicted by someone besides themselves, they must come to realize that the substance of choice is no longer suppressing or numbing their pain, but seemingly adding to it.

 

Of course, there is no magic formula for how active addicts arrive at a realization and break free from denial. But, generally speaking, addiction specialists are aware that enabling certainly prevents either. Rock bottom is a tough place to be, and it is likely even tougher for a loved one to helplessly witness. But, with regard to addiction, requiring an active addict to climb up of their own free will, rather than jumping in to save them from themselves, is the definition of love and the opposite of enabling and codependency.

Trick or Treat—A Reminder to Guard Against a Tricky Ego this Halloween and Treat Yourself to Continued Success in Recovery

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

As Halloween quickly approaches, invitations to festive events and costume parties may be pouring in. For those in early recovery, this can pose a potential challenge. It seems that everyone has plans to dress up and head to the bar, enjoy live music and participate in the fun a costume contest can bring.

Equally as challenging to all recovering individuals may be the fact that, during Halloween and all throughout the holiday season, people who seemingly aren’t addicts or alcoholics start stocking their homes with alcohol in preparation for adult guests who will be enjoying an evening of fun and entertainment.

These realities can bring a sense of resentment to those who have found themselves diagnosed with alcoholism or addiction. Those in early recovery may not feel safe to go to the local bar for fear of relapse. As such, it may feel as though the alternative is to stay home and miss out on the fun.

Additionally, for all individuals in recovery, the fact that some can seemingly consume alcoholic beverages in moderation with no negative consequences can cause a great deal of frustration, regret and possibly even self-loathing; a huge threat to recovery. Moreover, it may make those in early recovery question their own ability to do the same. And, of course, those whose substance of choice was never alcohol to begin with may find it tempting to partake in the consumption of what is likely intended to be just a few beers.

But, just as diabetics have a disease, addicts have a disease. And, for the record, Halloween is quite a challenging time for diabetics as well. In fact, the entire holiday season can pose some serious threats, if diagnosed individuals don’t find healthy ways to balance their desires to enjoy holiday treats and festivities while still respecting the critical needs of their bodies.

Individuals in recovery from addiction must do the same.

It is important to remember how tricky the ego can be in rationalizing relapse thinking and behavior. Moreover, it’s necessary to reach out to others in recovery for support. Work together to find or organize sober events, costume contests and Halloween parties that provide your inner child with the joyful experience of Halloween without risking your success in recovery.

“I’m Stuck with You”–A Caution to Guardians

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Children of addicts are often raised by grandparents or other family members, single parents, etc., as a result of active addiction. This can be a challenging and often painful reality for both guardians and the children affected. Confusion and constant questioning often surface quickly with children of addicts, once addicted parents are temporarily or permanently removed from their lives. All too often, guardians are not properly equipped with information or education about addiction and sometimes lack communication skills or the ability to carefully confront the delicate issue with honest explanations.

This combination of potentially overwhelming experiences can try even the kindest heart and potentially turn the best of intentions into an innocent child’s worst nightmare. As such, it is necessary for guardians to take a personal inventory, gain self-awareness, practice self-care and get professional help for themselves and the child, if necessary. Because, though the experience and responsibility of raising someone else’s child coupled with the resulting added stress, concern and frustration can wear a guardian down, patience and complete compassion are the guardian’s responsibility.

Remember, children—regardless of circumstance—require more than just food, shelter and clothing to survive. They need emotional and physical safety, love and belonging and self-esteem to thrive. Taking on the responsibility of a child implies the added accountability for providing those key elements, as well. With regard to children of addicts, the degree to which those components are needed is critical.

In essence, children of addicts have already been and currently are grieving the living. As such, they generally already lack a great deal of their basic physical and emotional human needs. Therefore, they will likely act out in response to that reality and throughout various stages of their ongoing grief process.

The latter possibility depends greatly on their age and development, but it is important to remember children of addicts often experience stunted development. This results from their experiences of living with an active addict. Additionally, the emotional trauma of losing a parent to active addiction negatively affects the development process.

As such, it is very important for guardians—temporary or permanent—of children of addicts to express gratitude for the privilege to raise the child, rather than making disparaging comments during moments of frustration. Guardians must remember, making hurtful statements—with or without negative intentions—about the effects of addiction that imply the child is a burden only worsen the child’s suffering and potentially result in the progression of any existing emotional/behavioral issues.

Moreover, guardians of children of addicts need to keep in mind, the children are already struggling a great deal, feel burdensome, abandoned and confused. It is vital for guardians to know what to say to these children to explain the situation, how to get help for them and how to ensure they do not feel like burdens or unwanted in any way.

If you are a guardian of a child of an addict and have questions or need further information, call our hotline: 1-844-6-GETHELP

Progress, Not Perfection–Learning to be Patient with the Process of Recovery

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

When recovering from any traumatic injury, individuals and family members are often encouraged to be patient with the healing process. Doctors realize the time it takes the body to recover from injury. Additionally, assistance and added recovery time may be required in regaining balance and coordination, rehabilitating motor skills and the body’s abilities in an effort to return to normal functioning. As such, the degree of injury and trauma determines the duration of time needed to recover.

Moreover, though a patient’s prognosis may be an expected full recovery, the individual is never quite the same. The trauma of the incident, the specific organs, muscles or bones affected, a near-death experience, resulting emotions involved in a realization of immortality or even a shift in perspective with regard to physical health and priorities can change a person forever. Due to this, though the physical body may heal superficially relatively quickly, the mental, psychological and spiritual aspects of the self as well as any resulting physical changes can often require a lifetime of recovery.

With regard to traumatic injuries, throughout the acute and long-term recovery processes, there is support from medical professionals—doctors, nurses, physical therapists and so on—constantly encouraging healing and ideally offering compassion while reminding the individual to practice patience and focus on the progress rather than the setbacks. The idea is to keep in mind what the body has been through, take time to be grateful for mere survival and to accept the new normal for however long the body requires it. Again, medical professionals are typically aware and often advise patients there is no set time in which the body heals from any injury, surgery or illness; only estimations based on averages.

All of the aforementioned is also true with regard to the process of recovery from addiction. The disease itself is a traumatic injury to the body, mind and soul. As such, recovering individuals and their families must all be informed and supported through the healing process. Patience is required from everyone involved. But, in an effort to prevent relapse, it is absolutely necessary for the recovering individual to practice it, constantly.

Equally as vital to successful recovery is the understanding that recovery from addiction is a lifetime process. The physical damage incurred may remedy itself rather quickly. Conversely, it may be irreversible and require strict lifestyle changes—more extensive than mere sobriety—to prolong life. Regardless of the resulting physical health of any addict, the recovery process does require a shift in perspective; one from quantity to quality of life. The latter is the reason support groups, sponsors, counselors, addiction specialists and other helping professionals are in place to address the unseen injuries resulting from and inflicted prior to the disease in a continuum of care spanning the individual’s life.

There is a need to practice patience with the physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological recovery from any disease and addiction is no exception. Too often, recovering addicts get caught up in trying to do everything right. This typically sets individuals up for feelings of failure and can easily lead to relapse. Therefore, It is very important for recovering addicts to celebrate survival and their healing and recovery achievements, regardless of how big or small, just as they typically honor their days of sobriety. Just as with recovery from any traumatic injury, surgery or disease, successful recovery from addiction is about making progress, not striving for perfection.

The Role of Addiction in Disease

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A

Through scientific methods, we as a society have proven addiction is a disease. Though specific political, religious or otherwise conservative groups and individuals may continue to utilize the moral model to explain, address or attempt to remedy it, the general population has seemingly come to at least accept the terminology of addiction as a disease. The latter may be simply due to the growing and insurmountable number of people struggling with or negatively affected by it and therefore seeking to recover and understand. Regardless of the reasoning, the majority of individuals who have experienced or been directly exposed to addiction recognize the progressive, chronic and potentially fatal nature of it.

Helping professionals often look to diabetes, cancer or other diseases to explain the advancing stages of addiction, potential for relapse and the need for life changes as well as multi-option or integrative care to treat it. However, rarely do medical experts look to addiction to explain other diseases. Addiction specialists typically view addiction as an acute physical symptom of a much deeper emotional/spiritual issue. Yet, only a small portion of the population sees cancer, diabetes or any other disease as a physical manifestation of an unresolved emotional or spiritual struggle.

Unlike other diseases, once a professional or self-diagnosis of addiction is received, and treatment is sought, a holistic approach is usually taken. Initially, physical detoxification—ideally medically supervised—begins the process of recovery from the disease. It is the first of many vital steps. And, generally speaking, addiction professionals are aware that relapse is imminent if detox is the only step taken to address addiction.

Moreover, detox alone often proves fatal due to the fact that the body drops its tolerance to the substance and therefore cannot handle the amount once used by the addicted individual. As such, when and if relapse occurs, the amount of substance used which was easily tolerated by the addict’s body prior to detox is now a fatal dose. For this reason and the fact that science has proven addiction to be more than a simple choice, successful recovery typically requires a month of residential treatment during which the diagnosed individual works with a team of addiction treatment specialists to address the holistic nature of the disease.

Regardless of the process, whether a 12-Step program is preferred or not, the addicted individual is encouraged and directed to address emotional or psychological and spiritual aspects of the self while medical professionals, nutrition specialists, etc., tend to the physiological components. Often, life or recovery coaches, social workers, counselors, psychiatrists and other necessary members of the holistic recovery team are brought on board to assist in the individual’s complete and continued recovery from addiction.

And, also generally unlike other diseases, the diagnosed individual is instructed to continue the spiritual and psychological growth process along with maintaining their physiological health via attending support groups, connection to sponsors, counselors, life coaches and/or social workers who hold them accountable for their own recovery process. These individuals are ideally supported through a continuum of care which follows the lifespan of their recovery. This typically presents by way of sober housing, collegiate recovery and other sober communities and programs designed to prevent relapse.

Additionally, numerous outpatient treatment options are offered in case of relapse to help restore physiological, psychological and spiritual balance and steer the individual away from self-destruction and back onto a path of personal growth and empowerment. The latter is typically considered key to successful recovery due to the fact that much of the healing required to completely abstain from substances or maintain moderation or balance within behavioral processes lies not solely within the chemical dependency or biological changes which developed throughout various degrees of substance abuse or behavioral compulsions. Conversely, successful recovery from the disease of addiction requires a holistic healing of the body, mind and soul.

Could it be that the same can be said for cancer? Diabetes? Or any other disease? Is it possible addiction research and specialists have worked so hard to successfully prove addiction as a disease and inadvertently discovered the answer to healing and recovery from all disease? If nothing else, it’s food for thought.

Loving Your Kids to Death: The Hard Truth About the Role of Parenting in Addiction

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Individuals who struggle with addiction often look for people or circumstances to blame for their situation. Active addiction requires denial of a problem and lack of complete accountability. Therefore, those who are active in the disease typically deny personal responsibility and blame family—dysfunctional or not—spouses or significant others, work or lack thereof, stress, etc., for their substance abuse.

Of course, any good treatment counselor will challenge the idea that factors outside an individual’s control force them to use and abuse substances. In fact, individuals in recovery are typically well-versed in the concept of internal locus of control—the notion that each person is in control of their own behaviors and choices regardless of external factors or circumstances. Yet, there is some validity to the suggestion that parenting plays a significant role in active addiction, and it’s a truth that may be hard to swallow.

Parenting is a challenge regardless of circumstance. However, when your kid is an addict, the parent role can become a confusing one. It is difficult to know what to do, how to help or if you can assist in any way at all. Of course, there’s also the potential to question whether mistakes or lapses in parenting were to blame for the onset of the disease in the first place.

With regard to the latter, the answer is a resounding no. Though accountability is a character trait everyone should possess, there is never a reason nor is it healthy to be over-responsible—accepting accountability for personal behaviors and for the choices of others as well. Every individual, including parents, has free will and therefore possesses the ability to choose their actions and reactions in any given circumstance.

However, parents often make one drastic error which can contribute to the onset of substance abuse, active addiction and certainly enable the progression of the disease. In simple terms and according to Dr. Carl Andersen, Founder of the Center for the Study of Addiction & Recovery at Texas Tech University, this potentially fatal mistake is known as the perversion of parenting—the idea that a parent’s job is to raise a happy child. Ideally and conversely, a parent’s task is to launch a healthy adult; a distinction which becomes quite clear in the face of active addiction.

When parents confuse their role and seek to keep their children happy, they do not set needed boundaries, impose necessary structure, hold their kids accountable by enforcing rules, providing consequences or following through with verbal contracts regarding negative choices and resulting repercussions. Therefore, these parents deny their children the ability to grow, gain emotional maturity, learn and master interpersonal relationship and life skills and acquire personal responsibility. Additionally, this passive or lenient style of parenting teaches entitlement, developmentally stunts and emotionally handicaps kids. The resulting lack of ability to appropriately cope with the ebb and flow of life can easily lead to negative reactions and self-sabotaging behaviors including but not limited to substance abuse.

As substance abuse progresses into the disease of addiction, these resulting character flaws advance accordingly as well. Manipulation, victimization, distortion, denial of accountability, blame, etc., all become amplified and utilized as means of defending and perpetuating the disease. Unfortunately and all too often, parents continue striving to return their child to a happy state by submitting to their will and supplying wants and necessities—clothing, shelter, food and money.

The latter prevents negative consequences from occurring often enough or lasting the duration needed to provide the active addict with a desperate desire to change. In other words, these parents offer the safety net which catches their addicted kids just prior to hitting rock bottom—the place active addicts need to be in order to contemplate the need for professional help. And, sadly, this cycle of rescue and repeat has devastating effects on the parents and ultimately results in the active addict’s demise.

In this way, it is quite possible for parents to literally love their kids to death. As such, it is vital for parents—especially those with kids in active addiction or recovery—to constantly remind themselves of their sole task; to launch a healthy adult. This requires they teach their children personal boundaries, cause and effect, accountability, communication, conflict resolution and other interpersonal and life skills without regard for the child’s happiness or gaining popularity as a parent. Additionally, focusing on this task will prevent codependency and ensure the distinction between love, enabling and ultimately life and death.

 

Distortion, Denial and the Truth About Active Addiction’s Most Powerful Body Guards

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By Toshia Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Individuals with active addiction often become very defensive when confronted—even carefully—about their drinking or drug problem. In fact, many react with extreme emotional outbursts, as though someone has threatened their best friend or a beloved family member. The truth is, to an active addict, anyone attempting to confront the reality of their addiction is in fact bullying their closest friend.

An active addict’s drug of choice is not simply a substance. From their perspective, it is their security. The relationship they develop with drugs or alcohol becomes their most intimate and valued one. Therefore, people in their lives who were once cherished begin to feel abandoned and betrayed, as if they have been replaced by drugs or alcohol. Indeed, they have.

Unfortunately, if friends, family members or significant others voice these feelings, thoughts or experiences regarding this reality or attempt to rescue the individual from the throes of active addiction, they are typically met with varying degrees of denial and distortion. These defense mechanisms usually present with the active addict’s efforts to;

  • deny a problem with drugs or alcohol,
  • dismiss any expressed pain or suffering caused by the abuse of these substances,
  • accuse those confronting the addiction of wrongful behavior,
  • shift blame and accountability to the intervening individuals,
  • manipulate said individuals with victimization, excuses and verbal expressions of martyrdom and self-pity.

These behaviors work to defend active addiction by denying its existence and distorting the reality of its destructive nature. Ultimately, the combined forces of denial and distortion—as presented in the bulletin points—create a chaotic maze of the active addict’s circular logic and the loved one’s dizzying cycles of repeated attempts to communicate concern. The latter continually gets stonewalled and eventually shut down. The well-orchestrated topsy-turvy outcome serves to distract and dissuade everyone from their attempts to confront the active addiction in the first place.

In short, the process of confronting active addiction can be crazy-making. Moreover, to attempt to address it repeatedly is the definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It is both a setup for and a characteristic of codependency.

That is the very reason denial and distortion are indeed addiction’s most powerful body guards. They not only work to protect the addictive substances and addiction itself. They also formulate such an insane, dysfunctional experience that those who become concerned and wish to interfere or intervene are forced to either maladapt and become increasingly codependent—a condition which requires recovery as well—or back off and simply let go.

Though the latter is always easier said than done, it is the necessary step each concerned individual must take in an effort to protect their own sanity and overall wellness. Aside from an organized intervention in which at least one helping professional is present to facilitate and mediate, there is nothing more that can be done to save an active addict from themselves. To prevent becoming an enabling part of the problem or an enmeshed piece of the dysfunction, loved ones must quickly employ their own empowering entourage; detachment and disengagement.

 

Acceptance vs. Enabling: The Difference Between a Caring Habit and a Destructive Pattern

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By Toshia Humphries, M. Ed., M.A.

Family members and friends of individuals struggling with active addiction often face their own inner battle. It is difficult for parents, partners and peers to witness the self-inflicted pain and suffering. Moreover, the compassionate heart of a parent often seeks to provide unconditional love, support and acceptance, regardless. Spouses feel bound by the vows which state “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.”

Additionally troubling is the reality friends face of wanting to support, encourage and accept the person they love to avoid adding pain to their destructive process. The idea that being that sort of ride or die friend constitutes true friendship is a dangerous one in most situations. In the case of active addiction, it is deadly.

Dr. William Glasser—father of Choice Theory and Reality Therapy—designated acceptance as one of the seven caring habits. Alongside trusting, supporting, encouraging, listening, negotiating differences and respecting, accepting is a behavior which nurtures and serves to grow relationships. The seven opposite of these are defined by Glasser as deadly habits and essentially destroy or kill relationships of any category.

Because the above is true, friends, family and significant others feel they are wrong in refusing to accept the negative behaviors, consequences and resulting chaos created by the individual in active addiction. In fact, they toil over the idea of emotional detachment—the process of letting go—because the terminology and experience seems cruel or lacking in empathy for their loved one.

However, there is a difference between acceptance—a caring habit—and enabling. Enabling is a destructive pattern of behavior which resembles acceptance and other caring habits. But, contrary to its appearance, enabling is not love. It is in fact anti-love because it ultimately serves to keep the individual in active addiction.

Enabling is the process of;

  • supporting, encouraging and accepting destructive, self-sabotaging behavior,
  • repeatedly listening to chronic bouts of victimization typically resulting from self-orchestrated, self-inflicted or self-perpetuated personal drama,
  • trusting the behavior will change regardless of the obvious pattern,
  • attempting to negotiate differences by merely taking a passive stance in the face of addiction’s anger and ego,
  • respecting the privacy—or secrecy—and destructive path of the individual rather than intervening.

Though the root of enabling is clearly prefaced with the seven caring habits, including but not limited to accepting, it does not grow or nurture the relationship or the individual. In fact, enabling kills both.

The only healthy way to practice acceptance with an individual in active addiction and avoid enabling is to simply realize there is a problem which is bigger than the individual. It is one only professional help can address. Rather than accepting the individual’s destructive behavior and resulting chaos, refuse to allow either in your life by suggesting professional help and emotionally detaching until that help is received.

The latter is not a cruel action, nor is it selfish. It is a practice in self-care—setting personal boundaries which protect against dysfunction. Moreover, it is an act of love toward the individual in active addiction because it holds them accountable, attempts to raise them to a higher standard of functioning and ultimately seeks to spur them into healing and recovery.