Updated: Oct 10, 2019
Addiction is a brain disease.
Having any type of addiction is like having your brain hijacked by a robot. Of course, now, we all know robots do not have feelings and can’t process thoughts as human beings can. Although we are able to program robots to complete specific tasks, as far as I know, they cannot feel emotions and create self-serving meaning to their experiences. The same concept applies to the addicted human brain to any or a variety of illicit substances.
Using drugs and alcohol for a long time can change the hormonal chemicals of different parts of the brain. So much so that the brain is fooled into believing/thinking that if the body doesn’t ingest a particular substance that person will die.
This is a problem, because as human beings we have the innate desire to keep us safe and from suffering a tragic death. Yet, this is a contradiction because most people get to a point where using and drinking is no longer fun and that behavior is maintain based on the illusion of it being a necessity.
Not only is addiction a brain disease, it is also considered a family disease.
Addiction is a family disease, but not because of genetic factors, environment, or even developmental factors, many people aren’t aware of this, but it is mainly because when we see someone we love who is self-destructing and when we believe they are bringing us down with them, we behave and act in ways we believe would benefit the addicted person and the family as a whole.
Some people are convinced everything will get back to normalcy if only the addicted person would simply stop using drugs and drinking alcohol. Many also believe, if only, the family member that is in active addiction would seek and stay in treatment for a long time enough time, she would be able to maintain her recovery happily ever after.
That just simply isn’t how recovery works. People often trigger each other unknowingly, prolonging the road to recovery. Each individual family member must focus on his recovery. You can’t force anyone to get well, just as no one can force anyone to lose weight or change an undesirable behavior that this person is not ready to change for whatever reason.
Your loved one has to want recovery just as much as you do, ideally, much more. It is a personal journey, which requires a team effort of treatment, support groups, but especially family support.
Relationships can either support one’s recovery or addiction. It cannot be both.