The effects of a substance abuse problem are profound. Let’s look at the physical effects. There’s a significant decrease in one’s immune system, damage to bodily organs and systems, a neurochemical imbalance, the risk of illnesses contracted through drug use, and the risk of bodily injury that occurs from accidents while under the influence. When it comes to the effects of addiction, it’s often the physical effects that we think about. Due to portrayals in the media, many people see addicts according to the stereotype, which is that they’ve ruined their health and bodies, have sacrificed their careers and homes, and have become criminals. While there are many people for whom this description is accurate, this is both unfair and inaccurate when you consider the community of addicts as a whole.
Beyond the physical effects, there are also a number of mental and emotional effects. Because of the changes to the brain’s neurochemistry, people who become addicted to alcohol or drugs find themselves experiencing a very significant disruption of their emotions and cognitive processes. The spike in neurochemicals that occurs as a result of alcohol or drug abuse effectively shocks the brain, and as they continue this substance abuse, the brain is forced to adapt. Specifically, it adapts by modifying its own production and activation of neurochemicals, instead becoming dependent on alcohol or drugs as the primary source for those neurochemicals. As a result, these individuals experience withdrawal symptoms when they are deprived of those substances, making it difficult for them to be without the substances to which they’re addicted since they’ll experience intense discomfort.
However, the effects of addiction extend far beyond the boundaries of the body. In fact, addiction is often referred to as the “family disease” due to the way that it affects not just the addict, but the addict’s loved ones as well. At present, we’re going to have a discussion about trust and the way that a person who’s addicted to alcohol or drugs inadvertently breaks the trust he or she has established with members of his or her family.
It’s quite difficult not to take a person’s substance abuse personally, especially when the substance abuser is a close family member, friend, or loved one. When substance abuse occurs in the family unit, people often feel like the individual became addicted after using alcohol or drugs to escape familial unhappiness, attempting to blame themselves for the individual’s addiction. However, the only person that can make an addict become addicted is the addict themselves.
Many times substance abusers underestimate the extent to which their alcohol and drug abuse affects the people around them. They assume that since the alcohol or drugs goes into their bodies, that their substance abuse isn’t affecting or harming anyone else. However, it’s not the actual substance abuse that causes the addict’s loved ones harm; rather, it’s the behaviors and indirect effects of the substance abuse that has serious implications for the addict’s loved ones. For instance, many addicts reach the point where they’ve spent so much of their money on sustaining their substance abuse problem and have lost their jobs along the way, leading them to resort to stealing so that they can obtain the money they need for the next fix. In many cases, they actually steal from their own loved ones since they’re the most accessible and, in their eyes, less likely to report them to the police. Unfortunately, once an addict has broken the trust that had been established with his or her family members and close friends, it’s not easy to rebuild.
Rebuilding or re-establishing trust after it has been broken is not an easy feat. It takes a lot of time and patience, especially on the part of whoever has had their trust betrayed. According to research, there are actually four stages of trust that loved ones experience once the addict has returned home from treatment. The first stage is referred to as paranoia, which is the initial period during which the individuals are worrying about whether or not the addict will immediately break their trust again. They are frequently wondering “what if” and are more inclined to assume guilt than innocence. As long as the addict doesn’t betray the slowly rekindling trust again, the loved ones merely need to see that the individual is making an effort, trying and even wanting to get better again.
The second stage of rebuilding trust is cautious optimism, which means that although there is still worry and a small level of paranoia, the addict’s loved ones are trying to “meet him/her halfway” and convince themselves that there’s not yet been any reason for doubt. Communication is an important part of this step and will lead to the third stage, which is optimism. During this third stage, the addict’s loved ones are readily able to see signs of improvement and are becoming much more willing to give the addict the benefit of doubt. There’s much less worry about betrayal and although there’s some worry about the future, they’re becoming much more hopeful. In the final stage — which is the stage of confidence —- there’s no doubt that the addict has been sober and can remain sober. At this stage, the family, consisting of the addict in addition to his or her loved ones, are finally able to begin moving forward without constantly looking over their shoulders. There’s open communication and confidence between them. As well, there’s an awareness that the potential for relapse is never completely gone, but the loved ones are confident that they know the addict’s warning signs and will be able to intervene if or when necessary.
The journey from addiction to sobriety is different for everyone, which is why it’s important that each addict receive an individual consultation. At Intervention Services, we’ve made it our mission to help anyone suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction find the treatments and recovery resources they need to get their lives back. For more information or a free consultation, call us toll-free at 877-478-4621. Whether day or night, we’re ready and able to help you or your loved one get back to a life of happiness and health.