Updated: May 18, 2019
That is the million dollar question isn’t it? During my Facebook Live Q & A this past week, the question of why can’t addicts just stop using was thrown to me. It’s a great question, and very complicated to answer. I don’t know that anyone has THE answer to this question. Addicts don’t even seem to have a satisfactory answer. But I’m going to try anyways.
I can’t explain to someone that has never experienced what it is like to knowingly choose the drugs over everything else. It’s like trying to define the word “love.” Most of us at some point have experienced this emotion of love in some way. So when someone says love, we can all connect to what that emotion feels like for us. That goes the same for all emotions we have felt like fear, anger, happy, sad, etc. When someone says these emotions, we connect to the emotion so we can understand them. But we can’t quite define it very well in words.
So if someone has never felt an emotion, there is no ability to connect and understand. Therefore, it can be difficult for someone who has never felt the drive to get drugs by any means necessary to understand what that emotion feels like. And any person that has felt this will tell you it is a very strong emotion.
Why do addicts do things they know are bad for them and everyone around them? There are so many things in my life I would like to be doing that would be good for me. I would love to meditate every day, do yoga, exercise, eat right, etc. I don’t do these things even though I know it would be good for me. I even have a DESIRE to do these things. But my desire for cake trumps my desire to eat right. That is, until I have eaten so much cake that I become fatigued all the time, I gain weight which makes me depressed, eventually I start feeling kinda suicidal. All over a damn piece of cake.
So what do I do? I stop eating cake for a while, cut back on all sugary substances, and start feeling better. When I start feeling better, I get excited because my life feels normal again. Hurray!!! Problem solved…I shall reward myself with more cake. And the cycle continues.
The principles behind that cycle of eating cake are the same principles of what it’s like for an addict only it’s a lot more dramatic and the consequences are a lot more immediate and severe.
When the consequences for the addict start showing up, it’s easier to deal with those consequences when their drug of choice is involved. The deeper they go into their addiction, the more they want to escape from the destruction they are causing themselves. And the less they want to face what they are doing and the person they have become.
People use drugs because it feels good. It certainly feels better than facing their life.
I loved using drugs. If I could use drugs without all those pesky consequences, I would in a heartbeat.
I do believe people deserve their consequences. I do not want to make out like I am making an excuse for us addicts who has made poor decisions. We deserve our families being mad and frustrated at us for our poor decisions. Hell, I was mad and frustrated with myself.
If we did something bad enough to land us in jail, we deserve to stay in there. We deserve our spouse’s leaving us, our kids being taken from us, etc. Until we accept our personal responsibilities, we can’t grow our inner strength and be the person we really are. When trust is broken, we have to face the fact that we have to earn it back, if we ever can.
Desperation is what brings us to our knees and start wanting to make a different decision to do whatever it takes to stop using. Until we are desperate enough, we won’t stop. I became desperate enough when I knew I was going to die. Actually, not even dying made me want to stop. Dying was going to be a relief. It was facing the facts that I might not die and I had to continue living in the hell I was in. At that point, I became willing to face all my consequences. I didn’t care anymore how mad everyone was at me, I was desperate to stop the insanity.
I stopped the insanity and started facing myself and my pain. I continue over a decade later to face my pain…and it sucks. There are some days I want nothing more to make it stop. I don’t use because I know I can’t handle adding any more pain. I just have to deal with it and move on. FUCK!
I say all that to remind people that just because a person doesn’t understand and can’t comprehend what it is like for an addict that is using drugs, you can have compassion without judgment. You can set and DEFEND your boundaries with no guilt. As an addict, we are responsible for the decisions we make. In the depths of my addiction, I made choices. Choices that I knew were not ok. I just simply didn’t care and did them anyway. I was never a victim to the disease. I did, however, victimize myself. I CHOSE to do drugs over my willingness to get help.
I know a lot of addicts are out there shaking their heads right now disagreeing with me about using drugs being a choice because many of us feel like it’s not a choice when we are in the middle of it. But the reality is, it is a choice. When I lied, I knew I lied. When I stole, I chose to steal. When I used, I was a willing participant. I could have made a different decision, and I didn’t. This is accepting personal responsibility part of the game. And it sucks, it’s painful, and seems impossible when we are in the grips of our addiction. Until things get bad enough for us, the choice to use drugs is the easier choice.
So I say this to the families out there, stop coddling and feeding into the addict bullshit. Make it rough, don’t give them money, kick them out of your house if you have to, leave them in jail, take custody of their kid(s), and support and love them every step of the way. Yes, all this is very difficult stuff to do, if you need support and guidance, please feel free to reach out to me and set up a free strategy call
Jennifer Maneely has spent the last eight years investing in leadership programs, self-awareness, and relationship with families through communication. Drawing on her experience as a leadership consultant, she uses an executive coaching approach to working with parents. She has dedicated her life and her business to not only addicts in need but also understanding and supporting the needs of the family members. Being a recovering addict herself, she is trained in what it takes for an addict to get their life back and has spent years teaching family members how to respond to the addicts to prevent the families from unintentionally supporting the addict in their self-sabotage and destructive patterns of behaviors. Want to stop supporting your loved one in their addiction? Set up a free strategy call