Many young adults who struggle with addiction are also struggling with other problems. There are pressures from school, pressures from a job, and money pressures. There can be anxiety and worries about the future, and there can be drama in the present. A young adult is transitioning between the world of dependence on others, and the responsibilities which are part of independence. This change of life roles can be difficult and stressful.
When receiving treatment for substance abuse, there is often a large amount of time spent on addressing these types of individual concerns. The mental and emotional wellbeing of a person who is seeking to escape the trap of substance abuse is of vital importance. Having a healthy psychological life is a primary defense mechanism against continuing in an addiction.
For some, focusing on the distress of those around you may not be the primary concern when first embarking on a journey of becoming sober. Those who come from a difficult family background, for instance, may be triggered by the mere thought about how his or her behavior is affecting friends and family. Many people in addiction can cite their families of origin as being the ones who created the poor mental health conditions, to begin with. At some point, however, healthy growth requires that we gain a sense of empathy for others. Failure to do so means that we are only propagating the negative family dynamics, and are playing our own role in sustaining the problems.
For other young adults, the love that they have for their friends and family will be what eventually motivates them to make a change. Seeing the impact of our addiction on those around us can eventually contribute to a massive amount of our own discomfort. We begin to see that sustaining our addiction isn’t worth the pain that we are subjecting others to. Consider the following ways that those around us suffer while we are in addiction.
Emotional hurt can be experienced as a sense of betrayal, a sense of hopelessness, or a sense of loss. The person whom your loved one believed you to be is disappearing into the haze of addiction, and their hopes and dreams for you can begin disappearing into that fog, as well. Your loved ones may be hurt over the lack of appreciation that you are showing for their hard work and investment into your life, or may be hurt over the idea that you don’t seem to care about their hurting.
Being left in a state of hurt for a prolonged period of time can result in the development of a clinical depression. Your loved one may begin to cry easily, or may begin to appear numb to any feelings. He or she may struggle with continuing to go to work, or may withdraw from activities that were once enjoyed. While you and your addiction are not responsible for the development of the condition of depression in someone else, your behaviors may be feeding into their tendency to sink into this abyss.
Watching a loved one venture into the dangerous territory of addiction can become a source of fear and anxiety. There is always the looming fear that you may get in over your head with a drug, and that the next phone call received will be from the police or the hospital. There is a fear that you may overdose and die, or be harmed by others while you are in vulnerable state of intoxication.
In addition to the fears of physical harm, there are also often fears for your viable future. A loved one will worry that you are destroying your relationships, or sabotaging your chances for a good future. School, career – and even the ability to think – are negatively impacted by continued drug use. Your loved ones may become extremely anxious over the thought that you are making choices, today, that will ruin your chances for a successful tomorrow.
Anger is a secondary emotion. This means that, before it manifests, there has been some form of hurt or fear which has been experienced. Expressing anger is an attempt to regain control over the helplessness of those types of negative feelings which are perceived as being caused by an outside force. In the case of anger being expressed toward you over your addiction, it is your behavior which is being viewed, by your loved one, as that outside source of conflict. Chances are good that hurt and fear have existed for quite some time before the anger shows up.
If your loved one is expressing anger, it is likely that he or she is feeling helpless about changing the situation, and is acting out on that feeling. Constant feelings of anger can overflow to other areas of life, as well, and your loved one can become short-tempered and impatient toward tolerating any additional stresses. Other people may begin to suffer from the short fuse that your loved one is left with after becoming angry at you for your addictive behaviors, creating a domino effect of strained relationships.
Treating the Family
Our culture is becoming increasingly aware of the important role that our social dynamics play in our own recovery and wellness. While the historical focus has been placed on the person who is in an addiction, more modern views understand that no one exists in a bubble. Our families can be a source of both difficulties, and of healing. Integrating a plan for healing which includes both the addict, and the addict’s support system, creates the best conditions for success. Family therapy serves this role.
The definition of family has expanded, as well. For some, choosing to create a family from non-traditional means is the better option. Distant relatives, friends, life partners, and church members can become our family. The important aspect is that those around us are willing to commit to the growth and changes that are required of all parties involved in the life of a person in recovery.