Current research about what goes on in the brain of an addict indicates that with addiction comes a change in the wiring of the brain. Simply put, the addict loses control. When this happens, all the addict is concerned about is feeding the addiction. At this point, the question isn’t, ‘Whose fault is it?’ The question is ‘What can we do to help?’ All that matters to you regarding your loved one’s addiction is what steps you can take to be truly helpful.
One thing that many parents find helpful when dealing with their addict is to differentiate between your loved one–the one you gave life to and raised and nurtured–and the addict, the self-serving stranger who inhabits your child’s body.
Understanding which version of your child you are dealing with and when is very important. Parents need to do everything in their power to support and be there for their child who wants sobriety and health, but in no way support or condone the behaviour of the addict. But how to know the difference?
First, let’s look at why the fault card is so easy to play. You’ve probably heard the statement that all addiction is the result of trauma. Well, from my experience, it’s true. But what is trauma? We usually refer to it as a highly stressful event. However, it also includes the inability on the part of the traumatized person to cope. This becomes an even greater issue in childhood when coping techniques haven’t yet been developed, and the victim can’t make any sense of why this traumatic event is happening in the first place.
The body’s inability to cope and understand what is happening becomes locked somehow in the nervous system, unresolved. Later in life, even though we think we should perceiving and experiencing life differently, the traumatized person tends to become triggered by events that are similar to the events that occurred in the original trauma. This can be very confusing.
Take yourself, for example. Me too, for that matter. We all can be triggered for a variety of reason. Most of us just put up with it, because we’ve figured out ways to cope with it. And because these triggers aren’t debilitating, we accept them as part of everyday life. But at some point, when things begin to get heated, prolonged and unmanageable, you might want to stop and ask yourself, “Why am I getting triggered and where does it really come from?”
It could be something as simple as your boss reminding you of the authoritarian voice of my father, the voice you always resisted as a teenager. Or it could be the nagging voice of your wife, who reminds you of your angry mother when you were a little boy making a mess with all your toys on the living room floor.
Whatever your triggers, rest assured, we all have them. Just remember, most of us can cope. The addict can’t. Also remember, that any number of people experiencing the same event will perceive it differently. So, what wasn’t traumatic for you or your other kids may not necessarily be the case for the addict.
Then there’s the topic of attachment: the bonding that takes place at birth and in early childhood. It encodes us with the way we perceive the world. Is it loving? Is it a safe place? Is it nurturing?
And again, it must be remembered that this is all subjective; it is on the part of the infant and/or child and how they interpret life, not how we think they should interpret life.
Some of the questions the addict might ask, ‘Was I overprotected?’ ‘Did I have to fend for myself?’ ‘Did I feel loved?’ ‘Did anyone really care?’
The problem with both of these causes for addiction, whether it be the childhood trauma or the childhood attachment issues, is that they create a “victim” mentality on the part of the addict. The addict believes it is everyone else’s fault that they are the way they are. The world is against them.
But the reality is, in life, shit happens. The objective of living each day is to deal with it.
If the addict is serious about recovery, if the addict has had enough of going nowhere, if the addict truly wants to get his or her life back on track, then the Twelve Step Program has the ability to turn lives around. The Twelve Step Program is good therapy. At Aurora Recovery Centre we have the expertise to help those who want to help themselves.
Parents must remember: You didn’t cause this situation, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it. Only when the addict becomes ready, can acceptance and the willingness to take healthy actions begin. This is the point where change becomes possible.