Addiction creates real changes in physical and emotional health. It affects how the brain works. And because our brains are responsible for all our voluntary and involuntary actions, this means drugs change how we think, act and feel. Addiction isn’t a choice or a lifestyle. The things you do, say and feel under the influence aren’t your decisions.
This is why individuals with addiction may seem selfish, uncaring or stubborn. However this isn’t the truth. Behind addiction is the person you loved and still love, and he or she can even come out of addiction stronger, kinder and more understanding than before.
What Happens to the Brain Under the Influence of Drugs?
The brain makes us who we are. Psychiatric Times explains that drugs and addiction change the brain’s structure by creating new neural pathways and changing how many receptors we have and where.1
When the chemicals found in illicit and prescription drugs interfere with how the brain works, we become someone we don’t recognize. Getting and using becomes our priority, and it’s hard to focus on anything, or anyone, else.
So this is why a loved one becomes stubborn when faced with consequences, with the truth of the changes addiction has caused, and with the need for professional treatment and recovery.
How Do I Help a Stubborn Loved One?
A loved one will lie, tell half-truths, avoid you or even steal to further his or her drug use. When these things happen, understand that a loved one is bound by addiction and can’t see the truth of the situation. This does not excuse poor behavior, but it helps you gain perspective. Your loved one isn’t just being stubborn. He or she will need professional support to step beyond addiction. You are in a great position to learn how to move forward and that you need to move forward, for both yourself and your loved one.
How Do You Treat Addiction?
Treatment teaches patients how to make drug use a voluntary decision — and to then not make that choice. As the addiction epidemic grows, the number of quality treatment resources grows too. Addiction professionals, therapist and doctors can help you choose the right options for your unique situation.
And if your loved one remains stubborn and refuses to talk to these professionals, it may be time to ask for the help of a therapist or interventionist.
What Does Intervention Involve?
An intervention doesn’t have to be a dramatic one-time event. It may be a series of conversations and consequences. It may involve setting boundaries and sticking to them. For example your loved one may be used to calling on friends and family to “help” on a regular basis—money for groceries, a place to stay, someone to babysit while he or she goes out to “relax.” You may feel like you are helping your loved one or protecting your family, but these actions enable drug use.
They let your loved one continue to live stubbornly in denial or without serious consequences that would otherwise push him or her towards recovery.
Instead if a loved one asks for money, offer to help pay for treatment. If he or she asks for a place to stay, make daily outpatient therapy a requirement of residence. When asked to babysit, offer to care for children, pets and other concerns if the person is in inpatient treatment or therapy. If you are concerned about anyone’s safety or wellbeing, reach out to authorities rather than enable an unhealthy situation.
How Do I Get Through to a Stubborn Loved One?
When it comes to helping a stubborn loved one, don’t make excuses or enable, but do be patient and understanding. Reach out to professionals who understand the best approaches to take. Make sure you aren’t blaming or accusing your loved one but are instead expressing love and concern. Blame can just make stubbornness worse. A person with addiction is probably already experiencing, or denying, guilt and regret. This can make him or her incredibly defensive when confronted with evidence of addictive behaviors.
So when approaching your loved one, consider the following tips and alternative statements:
- Do not tell an individual with addiction that he or she “always” falls short of their responsibilities.
- Do not tell an individual with addiction that he or she has a choice to use drugs or not use drugs.
- Do not tell an individual with addiction he or she is a bad person or a bad parent.
- Tell your loved one that this disease has made him or her unreliable in specific circumstances, and give examples.
- Tell your loved one that he or she has the choice to seek treatment.
- Tell your love one that the disease of addiction is interfering with his or her ability to parent or to maintain healthy social connections.
Drug addiction is a treatable disease. No matter how stubborn your loved one may be, you can help him or her find the way back. Reach out to Skywood at 269.280.4673 to learn more about helping a stubborn loved one and to arrange treatment or intervention.
By Alanna Hilbink, Contributing Writer
1 Halpern, John. “Addiction is a Disease.” Psychiatric Times. 1 Oct. 2002.