Science now shows that the cause of addiction is not the addictiveness of the drugs themselves, but the underlying reasons for taking the drugs – the emotional pain, trauma, and disconnection/loneliness that users feel. The drugs are simply an escape mechanism to avoid feeling the pain and to feel connected to something. If as a society we help people to heal the pain, to feel connected to others and enjoy life, then the use of drugs will decrease. Love and connection is the answer.
These are insightful videos by Gabor Mate who explains that emotional pain and trauma underlies addiction. He also explains how trauma/addictive tendencies get past on through the generations unintentionally when addiction affected parents are not able to be present and available to their kids.
This is a 29 minute video clip of Russell Brand testifying at a Government Committee about reform to the way that addiction issues are regulated and handled. He openly shares his story of overcoming addiction and his belief that most addicts are people suffering from emotional, mental and spiritual maladies. If they heal these issues they no longer need the drug to mask their feelings and internal pain. Russell argues for a more compassionate and loving approach by Government, seeing addiction as a health issue and people needing support to heal, rather than being viewed as criminals or burdens to society. It is wonderful to see his authenticity and truth sharing – he urges more people to do the same, so that we can have a real discussion about these issues and how to resolve them.
The below is advice from Al-anon on how to help an alcoholic:
Learn all the facts and put them to work in your own life. Don’t start with the alcoholic
Attend AA meetings, Al-Anon meetings and if possible go to a mental health clinic, alcoholism information centre or to a competent counsellor or minister who has had experience in this field
Remember you are emotionally involved. Changing your attitude and approach to the problem can speed up recovery.
Encourage all beneficial activities of the alcoholic and cooperate in making them possible
Learn that love cannot exist without compassion, discipline and justice, and to accept love or give it without these qualities is to destroy it eventually.
It is easier to find a list of don’ts in dealing with alcoholics for it is easier to understand why you fail than to know why you succeed. The following list is not inclusive but it makes a good beginning.
Don’t lecture, moralise, scold, blame, threaten, argue when drunk or sober, pour out liquor, lose your temper or cover up the consequences of drinking. You may feel better but the situation will be worse.
Don’t lose your temper and thereby destroy yourself and any possibility of help
Don’t allow your anxiety to compel you to do what the alcoholic must do for him or her self
Don’t accept promises, for this is just a method of postponing pain. In the same way don’t keep switching agreements. If an agreement is made stick to it.
Don’t allow the alcoholic to lie to you and accept it for the truth for in so doing you encourage this process. The truth is often painful, but get at it.
Don’t let the alcoholic outsmart you for this teaches him to avoid responsibility and lose respect for you at the same time
Don’t let the alcoholic exploit you or take advantage of you for in so doing you become an accomplice in the evasion of responsibility.
Lastly don’t try to follow this as a rule book. It is simply a guide to be used with intelligence and evaluation. If at all possible attend Al-Anon meetings and seek good professional help. You need this therapy as well as the alcoholic.
Above all, don’t put off facing the reality that alcoholism is a progressive illness that gets increasingly worse as drinking continues. Start now to learn, to understand and to plan for recovery. To do nothing is the worst choice you can make.
(Information from Al-anon Family Groups, 1987, A guide for the family of the alcoholic, Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, New York p14-15)
Although there are many ways of ‘Rescuing’ an alcoholic, some ways are typical. Here are ten of them:
1. When three or more suggestions to an alcoholic have been rejected you are Rescuing. Instead, offer one or two, and wait to see whether they are acceptable. If they are not, stop making suggestions. Don’t play “Why don’t you… Yes, but…”
2. It’s O.K. to investigate possible therapists for an alcoholic, but never make an appointment for him or her. Any therapist who is willing to make an appointment with an alcoholic through a third person is probably a potential Rescuer and eventual Persecutor.
3. Do not remove liquor, pour liquor down the drain, or look for hidden stashes of liquor in an alcoholic’s house, unless you’re asked to do so by the alcoholic. Conversely, do not ever buy, serve, mix for, or offer alcohol to an alcoholic.
4. Do not engage in lengthy conversations about alcoholism or a person’s alcoholic problem while the person is drunk or drinking; that will be a waste of time and energy, and will be completely forgotten by him / her in most cases when he / she sobers up.
5. Never lend money to a drinking alcoholic. Do not allow a drunk alcoholic to come to your house, or, worse, drink in your house. Instead, in as loving and nurturing a way as possible, ask to see her again when she / he is sober.
6. Do not get involved in errands repair jobs, cleanups, long drives, pickups, or deliveries for an alcoholic who is not actively participating in fighting his / her alcoholism.
7. When you are relating to an alcoholic, do not commit the common error of seeing only the good and justifying the bad. “He’s so wonderful when he’s sober” is a common mistake people make with respect to alcoholics. The alcoholic is a whole person, and his / her personality includes both his / her good and bad parts. They cannot be separated from each other. Either take the whole person or none at all. If the balance comes out consistently in the red, it is foolish to look only on the credit side.
8. Do not remain silent on the subject of another’s alcoholism. Don’t hesitate to express yourself freely on the subject, what you don’t like, what you won’t stand for, what you think about it, what you want or how it makes you feel. But don’t do it with the expectation of being thanked or creating a change; it’s not likely to happen. Do it just to be on the record. Often your outspoken attitude will be taken seriously and appreciated, though it may not bring about any immediate changes. Just as often it will unleash a barrage of defensiveness and even anger, which you should staunchly absorb without weakening.
9. Be aware of not doing anything that you don’t want to do for the alcoholic. It is bad enough if you commit any of the above mistakes willingly. But when you add to them the complications of doing them when you would prefer not to, you are compounding your mistake and fostering an eventual Persecution.
10. Never believe that an alcoholic is hopeless. Keep your willingness to help ready, offer it often, and make it available whenever you detect a genuine interest and effort on the alcoholics part. When that happens, don’t overreact, but help cautiously and without Rescuing; doing only what you want to do, and no more than your share.
Remembering these guidelines about Rescuing will be helpful regardless of what else is done. You can’t fix the problem, the alcoholic has to do the work. By rescuing and reducing the painful impacts of the alcoholism you are allowing the alcoholic to continue to drink. Often it’s only when things hit ‘rock bottom’ that the alcoholic will decide it’s time to change. That is when you should be there for them to support them through the process.