Unspoken Rules of Addiction

Addiction wreaks havoc on everyone it touches. No matter the vice. No matter the person. No matter the family.

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Conversely, recovery from addiction can offer a life more fulfilling than ever imagined. That’s true for the person caught in the web of addiction and the family, friends, and associates who care for that person.

It’s a cliché but it’s very relevant – Addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer. Addiction takes on may forms and is far reaching beyond the person using or engaged in addictive behaviors. Whether the addiction is chemical in nature (alcohol, pills, cocaine, pot, meth, hallucinogenic, heroin, synthetics) or behavioral in nature (gaming, gambling, shopping/spending, eating, pornography, sex/relationships, technology) the ripple effect of addiction carries consequences through out the family and social systems. Dysfunction, calamity and isolation set in sometimes quickly but often times slowly like a thief in the night.

As with most issues, the first step toward recovery and healing is to acknowledge that there is an issue! Either the addict or someone in the family/support system has to acknowledge what is happening and be willing to break the unspoken rules that accompany active addiction.

Rules of Addiction; Don’t Talk. Don’t Trust. Don’t Feel

In simple terms, addiction conditions everyone it touches to not talk about the problem directly which usually means family members or support systems may be talking to one another in private but not talking directly to the using person about the problems. Maybe attempts to talk directly have been met with defensiveness, anger, retribution, denial, emotional manipulations, broken promises, ad infinitum.

Over time, this breakdown in communication leads to mistrust and a sense that one’s feelings and concerns do not matter. This is true for the person in active addiction as well as those closest to him/her.

In the throes of addiction or any type of interpersonal dysfunction, people are subtly conditioned to adhere to these unspoken rules. Claudia Black discovered this reality in her early research on alcoholism and other drug addictions.

In addition to the actual use of substances or vices, the progressive nature of addiction is always accompanied by secrets, relational division, and heightened yet avoidance of emotions. It’s not an intentional conditioning and when finally acknowledged, it’s often a tough admission to make and an even tougher pattern to begin to break.

There is good news though! The unspoken rules can be broken. It’s fear that drives this conditioning and fear that keeps a person hostage to active addiction. There is a saying in the 12 step communities that offers some great perspective on fear:

If you are afraid, do it afraid!

There is preparation involved in getting ready to break out of the patterns that kept the cycle of addiction intact. It’s not wise to go it alone. There is another 12 step community saying that applies here as well:

The addicted mind is like a bad neighborhood –
you should never go there alone and especially not after dark!

The dangers of going this type of interpersonal work alone are numerous. First and foremost, the same logic and thought processes that created these mal-adaptive behaviors are still intact and rooted in not only recent exposures but also colored by years of life experiences and influences. It’s like not being able to see the forest because of all the trees. Perspectives are skewed and one sided. But because personal perception is also personal reality – there is a great need to seek out other perspectives for more clarity.

It’s not only okay but it’s also necessary to get help! Talk to someone with experience in working through fear to begin to unlock the barriers to addressing the addiction head on. There are self help groups such as the numerous 12 Step affiliations, SMART Recovery, Rational Recovery, Celebrate Recovery.

There are self help groups such as Al Anon and Nar-Anon that help family members understand the process of addiction and their role in the healing process. There are community education groups that focus on specifics of addiction pathology and recovery concepts. Individual and family therapy are great options for addressing specific individual and familial patterns and healing. Most addiction treatment facilities offer a multiday multifamily program in conjunction with the addicted person’s treatment or as an adjunct family service

A word or two about treatment options – We live in an era where help for addiction is almost as abundant as the supply of drugs and alcohol. That’s a bold statement but it’s very true. There was a time where few treatment programs existed and the ones that did exist were kind of a “one size fits all” approach. However, as time, pathology, research, and policies have advanced, so has the abundance of treatment resources. There are tons and tons of options for substance abuse treatment. There are now treatment options for specific process addictions as well.

This is the good and bad news about tons and tons of treatment options. It’s good that there are specific services to fit individual needs. It’s good that advances have been made in ways to treat addiction for individuals as well as families. It’s good that there are treatment options that fit the progression of addiction and a person doesn’t have to hit rock bottom before getting help.

It’s bad in that the search for the right treatment is overwhelming. It’s bad because the treatment industry (like other industries) has become vulnerable to corruption. It’s bad because financial resources and geographical logistics are often barriers.

So what to do!? Again, get guidance. Utilize a trusted network to get informed information to make informed decisions about what is a right fit for the progression of addiction present in all areas of the person’s life (bio-psycho-social – meaning physically, mentally, socially).

Addiction Recovery Strategies specializes in pulling the pieces of the puzzles together for you to identify and develop a plan to break the unspoken rules of Don’t Talk, Don’t Trust, Don’t Feel. The goal is not only to break these rules but to interrupt the progression of addiction and put each affected person on a course of hopefulness, healing, and yes even happiness.

Call me today and let’s get started. I’ll walk with you and your family through every step of the journey on the road of recovery from addiction.

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