Loving the Addict

The Three C's: Cause, Cure, Control

The Cause

As family members we seek for understanding and clarity. Why did this happen to us? Where did we do wrong? And, what could we have done differently? We stand in the wake of the cyclone and wonder what forces could possibly have come together with such ferocity, to cause this much damage?

Many of us become caught up in the blame game. We blame the doctors that prescribed our family member pain medication for a wisdom tooth extraction. Or the teacher that said our daughter was inattentive and suggested we get her tested for ADD. Married couples often blame the other spouse as triangulation rears its ugly head: One spouse accuses the other of being too "soft" and that parent retaliates in kind, responding that the other parent is rigid and removed. There are many variations on this theme, but the resounding cry is the same–"It's _____'s fault!" And when we aren't busy blaming others, we often point our finger back at ourselves, covering ourselves with a blanket of guilt.

Thankfully, neuroscience tells us that it's not all that simple. Addiction is not caused by any one factor, but rather by an insidious combination of elements – some biological, some psychological, and some social–and it is never the same combination for any two people.

The Cure

There is not a singular cause of addiction. Similarly, there is not a prescriptive cure. Science has not yet harnessed how to stop a person from becoming an addict. Consider addiction analogous to diabetes: Once a person has diabetes, he or she always has diabetes. With thoughtful daily maintenance, however, the disease is kept at bay.

The cure for addiction to drugs and alcohol is through rigorous honesty. That is, the addicted person's rigorous honesty that they are an addict, and that it is up to them to take the steps necessary for clean, sober living. For family members, this means understanding that no amount of loving, pleading, bribing, or reasoning will cure addiction. It is up to the addict.

The Control

Addiction knows no logic. It knows no boundaries. No limits. In fact, trying to control an addict who doesn't want to stop using is like trying to lasso a tornado. It will run you over every time, and leave you standing with your pants around your ankles and a rope in your hand. Stop it. Drop the rope and get out of the way. Set healthy boundaries for what is acceptable in your home and in your relationship and stick to them.

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