Many people do not understand why individuals become addicted to drugs or how drugs change the brain to foster compulsive drug abuse. They mistakenly view drug abuse and addiction as strictly a social problem and may characterize those who take drugs as morally weak. One very common belief is that drug abusers should be able to just stop taking drugs if they are only willing to change their behavior. What people often underestimate is the complexity of drug addiction—that it is a disease that impacts the brain and because of that, stopping drug abuse is not simply a matter of willpower. Through scientific advances we now know much more about how exactly drugs work in the brain, and we also know that drug addiction can be successfully treated to help people stop abusing drugs and resume their productive lives.
Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences to the individual that is addicted and to those around them. Drug addiction is a brain disease because the abuse of drugs leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain. Although it is true that for most people the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary, over time the changes in the brain caused by repeated drug abuse can affect a person's self control and ability to make sound decisions, and at the same time send intense impulses to take drugs.
It is because of these changes in the brain that it is so challenging for a person who is addicted to stop abusing drugs. Fortunately, there are treatments that help people to counteract addiction's powerful disruptive effects and regain control. Research shows that combining addiction treatment medications, if available, with behavioral therapy is the best way to ensure success for most patients. Treatment approaches that are tailored to each patient's drug abuse patterns and any co-occurring medical, psychiatric, and social problems can lead to sustained recovery and a life without drug abuse.
Similar to other chronic, relapsing diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, drug addiction can be managed successfully. And, as with other chronic diseases, it is not uncommon for a person to relapse and begin abusing drugs again. Relapse, however, does not signal failure—rather, it indicates that treatment should be reinstated, adjusted, or that alternate treatment is needed to help the individual regain control and recover.
Alcoholism, drug addiction and other addictive diseases are truly family illnesses. The way the addictive illness affects other family members is Codependency.
No one caused your child or spouse's addiction but your child or spouse’s addiction can make you sick. Codependency work is about helping you not get sick. The family members of the addict feel just as out of control and in as much pain as the addict. The needs of the family members are just as great as the needs of the addict. Family members need support,guidance, healing , and treatment just much as the addict.
It is the primary responsibility of the codependent to not only lovingly detach from the addict, but also to take care of themselves. It is easier for codependents to give than to receive. Codependent behavior involves fear for and continual worrying about the addict. This fear can become obsessive and leave the codependent continually stressed and unable to replenish themselves. Left unattended, this can lead to physical illness.
We offer a specialized treatment program for parents of addicted children as well as spouses of addicts. Famiily members of addictive imdividuals need a place to get help and support for their grief. They need a place to receive guidance and direction on how to not burn out. They need a place to discuss their concerns about themselves and learn behaviors that can help the addict in their family. We understand how addiction affects family members and offer a way to help family members recover and learn a new way to relate to the addict in their lives. Our couples/family therapist has over 30 years experience in providing family therapy for families with addictive members.
Here is some additional information on Codependency:
Change involves three steps: The Three A’s
It is important to be aware of our codependent behaviors. Some of us learned these codependent behaviors as a child. Some of us learned these codependent behaviors later in life. We started to do these things out of necessity or to protect ourselves or meet our needs. However, these self destructive behaviors have outgrown their usefulness and no longer help us but hurt us. Codependent behaviors do not work for us. Most of us do not even know what we have been doing that has not been working. We have been so busy responding to other people’s problems that we have not had time to identify, much less take care of, our own problems. If you are a codependent or partake in codependent behaviors, you need to find your own recovery or healing process. You need to be willing to spend time working on change. Once you are aware of your codependent behaviors, you need to accept that you have them without judgement and you then need to plan out your recovery process.
What makes this so difficult is the pain of facing reality. Addiction has taken your loved one away from you. The pain of losing someone you love who is addicted is profound. You end up feeling responsible for the addict and your moods reflect theirs. You feel a loss of control. If only they would stop using. Just as the addict is obsessed with drugs, you are obsessed with the addict.
It is the primary responsibility of the family to not only lovingly detach from the addict but also to take care of self. This is so difficult because it is less painful and easier to think you can fix the addict than feel the pain of your helplessness. To feel the pain of your helplessness (taking step 1 of the 12 steps of recovery) you immediately get thrown into the grieving process. You are now facing Reality. You cannot fix your son or daughter. That thought is too overwhelming to handle by yourself. You must seek support and therapy to continue with this process so you know that you are not alone in dealing with the grieving process.
To heal we must go through the four stages of grief:
1. Bargaining and denial
We often get stuck in denial or anger and by doing so we will never get to acceptance. Sadness must be felt in order to complete the grieving process which will then enable us to detach with love and take care of ourselves. By doing so, we are doing the best we can to help the addict in our lives and not continue with harmful codependent behavior which may make the situation worse.
When you are dealing with individuals suffering from food addiction, you are generally dealing with three aspects of food disorders. They are anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive overeating. What all three forms of food addiction have in common is their addictive relationship with food.
Food addicts do not have a healthy sense of feeling empty or full. Normal individuals feel hungry when they have not eaten in a while and feel full after they have eaten a healthy amount of food. Food addicts do not experience this sensation of hunger or fullness. For example, compulsive overeaters do not experience feeling satiated or full after eating a healthy amount o f food. So in the absence of this sense of satiation or fullness, compulsive overeaters will continue to eat more than is needed to maintain their weight. They will gain weight and this can lead to obesity which causes a number of physical problems and diseases. Bulimics will often purge after overeating. This can cause many physical problems and that varies from person to person. Anorexics will avoid food intake and their weight can go so low that their health is in danger. Sometimes they need to be hospitalized or force fed with tubes to increase their weight to a more healthy number.
Food addicts eat, purge, or do not eat because of emotional issues. Food addiction, like other addictions, allows the individual to numb themselves and this allows them to avoid and run away from their feelings. Food addicts can have hangovers after a binge similar to alcoholics. Their ability to function can be hampered by their addiction. This affects relationships, careers, and health.
Food addicts have a harder time than others suffering from addiction because they cannot avoid food. They must always be around it. This is one of the reasons recovery from food addiction is so complicated. The food addict must determine which foods have the potential to become binge foods and which ones do not. This is not an easy process. Often sugar must be avoided totally which is difficult because it exists in many forms especially in processed food. So it can be a hidden ingredient and could set off a binge without the addict knowing they have eaten sugar.
As with other addictions, food is a form of social gathering. Very few social events do not include food of some sort. The food addict must learn how to be around it without partaking in it.