Psychology

Substance Abuse – A Different Perspective

 

So while I was thinking of ideas for my next psychology post, I decided to create a poll on Twitter, asking my audience what they would like to read about in a psychology blog post. The options and votes were:

Gender Dysphobia 28%

Gaming Disorder 15%

Substance Abuse 35%

Stuttering 22%

I found this result quite interesting for a number of reasons, and it got me thinking. In todays society we are quite well educated with regards to substance abuse. We see so many documentaries and articles about this, we all know an addict or someone who knows and addict. From a very young age, most of us are receiving education about substance abuse in order to prevent us from falling in that trap. There are rehab centres in every suburb / neighborhood and countless psychologists and psychiatrists who help us to understand this phenomenon. Yet, even though we probably don’t even know anything about Gender Dysphobia, Gaming Disorder or Stuttering, we will rather choose to read more about substance abuse.

This might be the case due to a lot of different reasons, but I have developed my own theory regarding this interesting outcome.

I think, it’s really because substance abuse is such a common thing, that we choose to read more and more about it. As I’ve mentioned, we all know either an addict or someone who knows an addict. Whether it’s a family member, friend or partner. On one side of the spectrum, addicts would choose to read more articles about substance abuse, because they are out of options on how to help themselves. On the other end, the relatives, friends and family members of an addict may choose to become more educated on this matter, because they are clueless in helping their loved one and themselves to overcome this. What do you do when you’ve relapsed several times, robbed your family, abused your partner, went to rehab and came back, only to relapse again? What do you do when you’ve been reading article after article on how to overcome this and stay clean? What do you do when you’ve been to the best Psychiatrists, Therapists and rehabs and you still cannot maintain sobriety? What happens when your family/friends have given up on you?

This is exactly what happens: The addict/loved ones will never give up hope entirely. There will always be that little bit of hope for a better life and a miracle. With each new article about substance abuse, it gives them a little hope for the future and a little hope that maybe this one will give them the answer. Merely because this is the one thing that is really not guaranteed. No Psychiatrist/Psychologist can MAKE an addict maintain sobriety. No rehab can guarantee that once the patient leaves the premises, all will be good and well for the rest of their lives. And because of that, we choose to read even more articles on Substance Abuse in the hope of a better understanding.

So instead of making this an informational blog post, I have decided to rather switch the focus of this article from the addict himself, to the addicts family and loved ones. This is my experience and how I’ve come to have the opinions I have today:

When it all started

I had a pretty sheltered life when it came to things like substance abuse and street life. The only thing I had to deal with as a child, was being raised by an alcoholic. My mother did everything she could to make sure we were taken care of. And by posting this article, I am by no means suggesting that she was a bad mother/person in any other aspect, besides for the fact that she was an addict.

When your partner is an addict

Before I continue, I would like to state that everything in this article is based on my personal experience and opinions, and I am by no means suggesting that this should be the opinion of every person involved with an addict.

Chances are good that you won’t even know your partner is using drugs. You might be aware of the fact that they are recovering addicts and therefore, when they relapse, they will try to act as normal as possible around you, to avoid any suspicion.

Addicts know they are doing the wrong thing when they relapse. They feel like failures and undeserving of anything good in life. They wish to be free from this life, and need to fight the addiction every single second of every single day. Hence, when they relapse, you are going to be the last to find out. They will usually reach out to other people who might be able to help them eg. members of the church, therapists and social media recovery sites. They will do everything in their power to stop this and to prevent you from ever finding out, because they don’t want to disappoint you.

There will definitely be signs, but you wouldn’t necessarily put it down to substance abuse because you choose to see the best in your partner,

Truth is.. They will lie to you, manipulate you and go to extreme extents to maintain their secret lifestyle. And if you are naive, you will never recognize the signs.

Signs of substance abuse

Behavioral changes

Your partner will seem distracted and pre-occupied in any circumstance / environment. They are forever planning and scheming on how to get away for their next ‘fix’. This could become stressful for them as they run out of excuses for leaving the house and insisting to go alone. This is especially applicable to married couples. Because this makes them extremely anxious, they will resort to nit picking and stirring fights. They will make you feel like you have failed them and that you are the reason why they are leaving the house yet again. Addicts are extremely good manipulators and they can brainwash you to the point where you believe you are always wrong and that you are always the cause for them leaving. This creates a scenario where you will never be mad at your partner for leaving the house and you will welcome them back and apologize to them. The reason they do this so well, is because their next “fix” depends on how well they play the part and that is all they care about at that stage. At that specific point in time, they couldn’t care less about hurting you emotionally or physically. They will do what they have to to get their “fix” as soon as possible, regardless of the damage they have to do to get it.

Increased need to go to the bathroom

Frequent visits to the bathroom and staying in there for longer than usual. This is a good excuse to get away to a safe space where no one will bother them, in order for them to snort, consume or inject. This is done to maintain the high so that they don’t show signs of changed behavior when it starts to work out. This is usually the case when they have been using for so long, that should they stop using ,they might show significant behavioral changes which will divert attention to them and their ways.

Absent mindedness

They will struggle to socialize with people, because they feel misunderstood. All he knows is, you don’t know what is happening in his life, neither does the rest of the family and friends. You will never understand him and so he will be extremely absent minded during social events. This could also happen due to resentment. They might do what they can to hide their addiction, but a big part of them is screaming for help. Because you don’t notice these changes, they might resent you and blame your for not caring enough or not being observant enough.

Unhealthy skin

Acne may develop on the face, back, chest or legs.

Deteriorated oral hygiene

Teeth will go bad faster than what is considered “normal”

Digestive problems

Constant Diarrhea, Constipation or Nausea

Insomnia

Unable to fall asleep, sleeping patterns will change. Tendency to stay up later than usual ans waking up during early hours in the morning.

Craving for sugar

Constantly looking for anything sweet to eat. If there is none, they will go to the shop immediately. When on a come-down, blood sugar levels drop and they will literally eat raw sugar if they’re unable to get hold of something sweet.

Increased appetite

Noticeable changes in appetite will occur. They will constantly look for something to eat, especially when on a come-down. All hell will break loose if there is no food in the house, as this is when they start stressing. The high is long gone, and now they’re on a come-down. They need to eat as much as they can for 2 reasons: The body is craving food as it is deprived of all its energy by now, and when an addict cannot get hold of a ‘fix’ , they will turn to food. Food is as much an addiction as any drug and therefore you won’t necessarily notice weight changes in your partner. The weight he would lose by using drugs is replaced with consuming large amounts of food when on a come-down.

When is enough, enough?

It’s only natural for us to want to stand by our loved ones and fight their addiction with them. Unfortunately, this does not always go according to plan.

You will try everything in your power to keep them away from drugs. You will lock them up to detox, take them to rehab, take them to therapy. You will research the internet looking for answers and solutions to this problem. He/she will hallucinate, fight with you, break things, kick things and do things that are extremely out of character. It will not be pretty. He will resent you and cry himself to sleep because you are treating him like an inmate/animal of some sort. This is where the manipulation starts again. He will manipulate you into giving him a little freedom. Telling you things like: “I already have no self-worth after what I’ve done, at least let me live like a decent human being and let me talk a walk outside”. That will make you feel bad and you will let them walk. And guess what, they will relapse!

Any recovered addict / addict / addict in recovery will tell you that it is wrong of loved ones to give up on them. Off course they will say that, because half of the time they have no idea what they put their loved ones through. They do not realize the extent of emotional and physical abuse that took place with every ‘fresh start’. They do not realize how extremely difficult it is for their loved ones. Support groups are always there for addicts. Where is the support for the loved ones? How can they try to help someone if they don’t understand why they relapse? Addiction is not a choice, and addicts cannot help themselves. This is just the way it is. But that doesn’t mean that anybody deserves to be the victim of their addictions. It’s not fair towards mankind.

The way I see it is that families who stick with the addict should not be judged but instead be admired for their perseverance and patience. On the other hand, when someone has endured enough physical and emotional abuse from the addict and they choose to give up on them, they shouldn’t be judged for that either.

My conclusion

Addiction is a life-long battle. It will not be cured by rehab and most definitely not by the amount of times a family member hands out another opportunity for a fresh start.

As sad as it is, the truth is that there is no long-term cure or solution for any sort of addiction. It’s a constant battle. No addict is going to go to rehab and never relapse. An addict is bound to relapse, whether it be in a few days, months, weeks or years. It’s just how their brains are wired. Some people only relapse after 10 – 30 years. What you need to consider though, is the fact that all triggers must be avoided at all times in order to prevent a relapse, and that in itself is practically impossible. This might also mean that you have to walk on eggshells around this person, because if they get too upset they might relapse.If you are choosing this lifestyle and if you are making a conscious decision to stand by your loved one at all costs – You’re a good person.

If you have been robbed, beaten up, shouted at and abused one too many times, you might decide to leave your loved one. If you are positive that you’ve tried everything in your power to help that person and it’s not working, you have every right to leave and build a new life that you deserve – without that person. You’re just as much a good person as the one who did not give up on his loved one – This is all circumstantial.

After being raised by an alcoholic and married to a meth addict, I have very strong opinions on this matter. I divorced my partner because I realized that nothing I can ever do will change her ways. I had enough, and I am not embarrassed about it.

I will always have a lot of sympathy with addicts as I understand what they go through, and if they had any way of choosing their lifestyle, they would definitely not have chosen addiction.

I hope that more and more people will realize the consequences of drugs and alcohol abuse and the toll it takes on the family as well. Please start educating your children from a young age as much as you can!

Read more about substance abuse on https://www.drugabuse.com

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  • Sophie Wentworth

    This was a really great post and I’m sure it was hard to write. It must have been so hard growing up like that! I always think about how hard it must be for the loved ones who want to help but there isn’t really much you can do. It’s such an awful disease. And it’s so hard that they’re always ‘recovering’ and never ‘recovered’. This was really interesting x

    Sophie
    http://www.glowsteady.co.uk

    • admin

      Thank you xx

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  • James Sewell

    A wealth of honest, personalized information. It’s good to have the perspective of family members to someone struggling with addiction-thank you for sharing! Particularly loved the signs to look out for.

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