From the outside looking in, it seems simple: If our loved ones are battling with substance abuse, why don’t they just seek help? It’s a clear line of cause and effect, and it appears to be a simple, linear path towards a solution for our friend or family member. What we often don’t realize, however, is that there is much more going on beneath the surface – and with so many factors at play, there are often odds that go against our loved ones seeking the help they need.
The Frustration of Addiction
One of the most devastating, frustrating experiences we may have with our loved ones is hearing that they’re going to seek help, only to discover several days (or weeks) later that they haven’t taken any steps towards positive change. Our loved ones may promise to never hurt us again, but the reality is that they can’t quite make this promise because addiction is a disease that takes control over a person’s thoughts and behaviors. Several years ago, Harvard Health noted that addiction practically “hijacks” the brain – and the word ‘addiction’ in and of itself is a Latin term for “enslaved by” or “bound to”.
National Geographic has also published on this topic, and has noted the importance of scientists’ research regarding the effects of addiction on a person’s thinking and behavioral patterns:
“Addiction causes hundreds of changes in brain anatomy, chemistry and cell-to-cell signaling, including in the gaps between neurons called synapses, which are the molecular machinery for learning. By taking advantage of the brain’s marvelous plasticity, addiction re-molds neural circuits to assign supreme value to cocaine or heroin or gin…”
When this occurs, our loved one’s interests are no longer focused on building stronger relationships with us, or pursuing a career path, or excelling in school, or navigating personal responsibilities – rather, their mind is set to follow addictive patterns of behavior. Of course, when this happens, we’re often let down as we held hope for so long that they’d seek help – so what do we do in these instances?
Gaining Understanding of What’s Holding Them Back
There’s a thick covering that’s separating our loved ones from seeking help in many cases, and the first step to providing stronger support is to understand what that “thick covering” entails. The Center on Addiction, an organization dedicated to educating policymakers and the community on preventing and treating this disease, explains 5 major factors that are holding people back from seeking treatment:
- Appropriate insurance may not be available.
- Treatment may appear to be inaccessible to the person.
- Help for addiction may be available, but a person may have other underlying factors – such as mental illness – that are holding them back from seeking help, too.
- Individuals may leave too early from their treatment program to really aid in their recovery.
Of course, these are only some of the more economical reasons why a person may have trouble seeking help. There are other factors at play too, such as:
- Stigma: Drug Policy Alliance explains that stigma for drug involvement can lead to social rejection, labeling, stereotyping and discrimination, and this can severely impact a person’s desire to seek help – especially if they feel they’ll be judged by their family, community and the treatment center itself.
- Self-Doubt: A person battling addiction may not feel confident in their ability to recover, or may doubt that they even want to recover. This process of “back and forth” is normal for those fighting addiction, and can make it challenging for them to take solid steps towards seeking help.
- Mental Illness: Illnesses such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and more can already influence the way a person perceives and processes information – and when addiction is added to the mix, it can become all-the-more difficult for a person to seek help.
All of these reasons (and more) can truly hold back our loved ones from asking for help, even if they mean well. In these instances, there are several things we can do – as our loved ones need us now more than ever.
Ways to Support Your Loved One Who Needs Help
First and foremost, you never want to shame your loved one into seeking treatment. A more effective approach would be to host an intervention where they can be lovingly confronted with the facts – as well as appropriate solutions and consequences if they don’t follow through. Make yourself available to your loved one in instances where they may need transportation to a treatment center, or consider taking over a few responsibilities (such as getting the mail or watching the kids from time to time) if that means that your loved one will be able to attend treatment.
Continue to support every step your loved one takes towards recovery, but don’t reward them if they don’t. If your loved one is ready to move forward with a reputable treatment center that will provide them with a safe space for ultimate rehabilitation, please speak with a professional from Cumberland Heights today.
Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of two 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first. For more information, call 1-800-646-9998 today.