Parenting is Hard – You are not alone:
Just like the other topics in this series, Addiction is not part of the vocabulary of people planning to have children, welcoming children, or even those in the midst of parenting their children. It is not something we even consider until it lands in our life – unexpected, undesired and most definitely unwelcome. When Addiction becomes a part of a parent’s reality – it can feel very lonely. If you or someone you know is affected by addiction or has a family member who is, you are not alone!!! It is another one of the hard parts of parenting that is hard, but very real and is more common than one ever realizes.
Our family has been intimately touched by Addiction. Addiction can take many forms. The most common type is Substance addictions (drugs and alcohol). There are also Process Addictions – those include: gambling, shopping, internet, sex, food etc. While our society might put more weight on Addictions to substances; I have seen the difficulties, struggles and damage caused by both types.
We need to recognize how common Addictions are and realize they touch so many people. We need to judge less and love more, and always remember we do not know the whole story. You are not alone!
What is an Addiction?
An Addiction is defined as “the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity.” (Oxford Dictionary)
What does an addiction do to the brain?
Addiction impacts the brain on many levels. … Once a chemical enters the brain, it can cause people to lose control of their impulses or crave a harmful substance. When someone develops an addiction, the brain craves the reward of the substance. This is due to the intense stimulation of the brain’s reward system.Dec 5, 2019 https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/addiction-brain/
Substance Abuse vs. Process Addictions
(The following article/information can also be found at:
To fully understand the difference between substance abuse and process addiction – and how the two are actually related – it is important to define both terms.
Substance abuse is defined by the University of Maryland Medical Center as the inappropriate use of illicit drugs, such as cocaine and heroin; the use of prescription or over-the-counter medications that causes individuals to experience negative consequences; and the use of alcohol despite negative consequences. These negative consequences can include:
- Failure to maintain responsibilities at home, work, and school
- Strained interpersonal relationships
- Legal ramifications
- Financial difficulties
- Physical health problems
- Development of a substance use disorder
A substance use disorder is most often a product of substance abuse. Individuals may develop a tolerance to the substance of choice, which leads to using more and more of the substance to achieve the desired effect. This can result in physical and psychological dependence; physical dependence alone does not necessarily constitute a substance use disorder. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that physical dependence occurs even when prescription medications are used appropriately, and describes a natural phenomenon in which the body adapts to the presence of the drug in the system. Psychological dependence involves emotional symptoms, such as anxiety, when the drug is stopped.
Substance abuse, at least the first occurrence, is voluntary. When addiction or substance use disorder develops, individuals exhibit behaviors that are described as drug-seeking. It is thought that repeated drug use contributes to these changes.
What Is a Process Addiction?
The major difference between a substance use disorder and a process addiction, sometimes referred to as a behavioral addiction, is obvious: As an article published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine states, individuals are not exposed to substances and do not experience the physical signs and symptoms of a substance use disorder.
Some may wonder if it is possible to become addicted to certain behaviors, such as spending money, gambling, eating, smartphone use, or sex. The American Psychological Association states that it is, due to the fact that addiction involves repetitiveness, high frequency, and excessive use, whether the focus is a substance or a behavior. The same characteristics of a drug addiction – continuing use of the substance despite negative consequences, inability to stop using the substance even if it is desired, and cravings – also apply to a process addiction.
What Substance Abuse and Process Addictions Have in Common
When individuals repeatedly abuse drugs, they are not concerned about what happens after they have used the drug, as they are merely in search of a high. The same can be said in regards to a process addiction. Individuals may not be thinking of what will happen after they gamble, binge eat, or have a one night stand with a stranger; they are thinking about the feelings and the pleasure that the act brings them. It could be said that an individual experiencing a process addiction may present with the same changes in the brain that are consistent with addiction that may be seen in an individual with a substance use disorder, according to Stanford University.
Some of the signs of process addictions may mimic those of a substance use disorder:
- Tolerance: While individuals who use substances may feel they need to take more of a drug to achieve the effects, those with a process addiction may increase the frequency or severity of their behavior for the same reason.
- Withdrawal symptoms: Those who use substances can experience physical symptoms, but those with a process addiction may experience profound anxiety if they cannot engage in their behavior of choice.
- Inability to stop the behavior: Those with process addictions and substance use disorders may wish to stop engaging in the behavior, but they are unable to do so.
- Primary focus: People with substance use disorders and process addictions often spend large amounts of time planning, engaging in, and recovering from the behaviors involved in the addiction (drinking, using drugs, shopping, etc.).
It is also possible to experience both a substance use disorder and a process addiction simultaneously.
Types of Process Addictions
Process addictions come in many forms, such as:
- Shopping addiction
- Gambling addiction
- Food addiction
- Love addiction
- Sex addiction
- Internet addiction
Individuals who exhibit signs of compulsive gambling, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are often no longer looking to win; instead, they are gambling to enter a “zone” in which they can ignore life’s problems. The article also suggests that individuals are merely after the “flow” of the experience.
Overeaters Anonymous assists those in the recovery from food-related process addictions, such as compulsive eating, binge eating, and other eating disorders. Stanford describes bulimia as a possible process disorder as well. In those who overeat, dopamine deficiencies may be to blame. Stanford University also suggests that the dopamine deficiency may resemble that of an individual with a substance use disorder.
There is not a great deal of information regarding sex addiction. According to The Professional Counselor, the term hypersexual disorder applies to those who exhibit signs of addiction in regard to sex and sex-related activities.
Process addictions come in many forms, and they are often harmful. As a result, they should be addressed with behavioral therapies. Likewise, substance abuse and addiction can bring great damage to those who suffer from them. When substance abuse and process addictions occur together in the same person, comprehensive treatment that addresses both conditions is necessary.
(the above article/information can also be found at: https://lagunatreatment.com/addiction-research/cross-addiction/process/)
Support for Families of Addicts
(The following article/information can also be found at: https://www.drugrehab.com/support/)
The disease of addiction changes people. Abusing alcohol and other drugs has a profound impact on the brain. Addiction can make a person we’ve known for years act like someone we don’t know. People with the disease often say and do things that inflict emotional trauma on the people that love them.
Addiction ruins relationships, but families are vital resources for people who are addicted. Having supportive relationships is one of the four pillars of recovery, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Unfortunately, most people aren’t equipped to help someone with an addiction. They may have good intentions, but many people enable or stigmatize substance abuse.
Families tend to focus their support on the person with the addiction. They often forget to support one another. Friends and family members often need counseling, therapy and peer support to learn how to cope with emotional problems caused by someone else’s addiction.
How to Support Someone with an Addiction
Don’t try to help someone with an addiction on your own. Substance use disorder, the medical term for addiction, is a chronic disease. You wouldn’t try to treat other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, without help.
You would want to learn as much as you can about the illness and urge your loved one to seek professional treatment. After the person visits the doctor, you’d encourage him or her to make healthy lifestyle changes. Those are the same steps you should take to help someone with an addiction.
Learn About the Disease
Addiction is a misunderstood disease. Some people are capable of controlling how much alcohol or drugs they consume. But others are unable to stop. They possess a variety of risk factors that lead to the development of a serious brain disease.
People with addiction may have made a choice to try alcohol or other drugs, but they don’t choose to continue to use. The substances cause physical changes to their brain that make quitting nearly impossible.
Learning more about drug abuse, addiction and the treatment options available to your loved one will prepare you to tackle the problem as effectively as possible.
One of the largest barriers to treatment for addiction is stigma. The disease has been associated with shame and guilt. In the past, families tried to conceal a loved one’s addiction. People with the disease have sought isolation to avoid embarrassment.
Stigma hurts people with addiction and their family members. It can cause unnecessary stress and sadness. It can lead to misunderstandings and poor communication. When family members avoid and actively combat stigma, they’re better able to support one another.
Help, but Don’t Enable
Supporting a loved one with an addiction is complicated. Family members have to constantly think about whether they’re enabling or helping. People who enable allow the person to take advantage of their kindness. They provide an environment that condones substance abuse because they’re unwilling to provide tough love.
Helping someone with an addiction involves setting boundaries, enforcing rules and providing love. You can help your loved one find support group meetings or an accredited rehab center. You can help the person practice coping techniques and stress-relief skills. But you shouldn’t let your loved one take advantage of you.
Getting a Loved One Professional Help
Friends, family members and self-help groups can support people who want to recover from addiction. But they can’t treat the disease.
Treatment for addiction comprises a range of therapeutic experiences that help the brain relearn how to function without alcohol and other drugs. It includes supervised detox, a necessary step to safely overcome withdrawal.
Nanci Stockwell of Advanced Recovery Systems describes the features to look for when choosing a rehab facility for addiction.
You can start searching for rehab facilities by asking your primary care physician for a recommendation. You can also search online or call an addiction hotline. Insurance providers can also provide a list of facilities that are covered by your plan.
Convincing Loved Ones to Seek Treatment
Finding a rehab center is half the battle. Convincing someone to seek treatment for addiction may take patience and dedication. Every person’s reasons for avoiding rehab are different. However, families can encourage their loved ones to seek help.
For example, children can convince parents to go to rehab by explaining how drug use has affected their lives. Other loved ones can point out financial problems or legal issues caused by substance abuse.
Holding an Intervention
An intervention isn’t a dramatic or scary experience. It’s a compassionate and healthy conversation. After a properly conducted intervention, most people choose to seek treatment.
Certified interventionists are trained facilitators. They help families communicate effectively while attempting to convince a loved one to get professional help. They’re also knowledgeable and experienced, and they add credibility to the conversation.
(The information/article above can also be found at: https://www.drugrehab.com/support/)
Support Groups for Addiction Recovery
(This link provides information on the benefits of Support Groups to the Addict as well as for the families of addicts. In addition it provides specific names of various support groups and links to connect with them. It talks about 12 step programs and their benefits, as well as alternatives to those programs – all with specific links to connect with them. Finally, it provides information and links to Support groups for the Families of Addicts – a valuable resource – and specific contact information for those groups.)
(the following article can also be found at https://www.addictioncenter.com/treatment/support-groups/)
Resources for Addicts and their Families
Gambling Addiction Help
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Help Guide – Overcoming Drug Addiction
Drug Rehab – Support for Families of Addicts
The information provided in this blog post was obtained from other sources and each source was cited throughout the post. It is never my intention to make anyone think that the information above was my own. I am simply trying to put necessary information (obtained from reliable sources) into a concise, easy to read and reference format.