Written By:Amber Hollingsworth,LPC
Oh my… this question is like asking “what is the meaning of the universe?” Let’s start by looking at what makes people vulnerable to addiction. There are so many things that can make someone vulnerable:
Underlying Anxiety, Depression, or ADD
These underlying conditions make a person more vulnerable to developing an addiction but the thing I’ve noticed that consistently tends to shift a person into problematic addictive patterns is the experience of unwanted/unexpected loss.
Oftentimes people go along just fine as a social drinker/user but once they experience some sudden loss (divorce, death of a loved one, major injury, loss of a job, loss of dream, etc..) they shift from a “social drinker/user” towards more addictive patterns.
From a brain perspective, there is a down regulation of several important brain chemicals during this time (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin). Often people will begin to use the substance to make up for these deficits in neurochemicals.
The way we account for this at Hope for Families is to emphasize the treatment of these underlying neurochemical deficits as a way to stimulate the recovery process. We’ve found that helping people reconnect with others is the best way to help heal these deficits. Humans are made to connect with each other and without connection we can actually get sick or worsen illnesses we have.
Depression, anxiety, trauma history, ADD, grief, and may other things can hinder a person’s ability to connect. Thus addressing these things helps to jump start and strengthen the recovery process. Otherwise the person is going to have a difficult time maintaining their sobriety.
Luckily when people engage in the traditional recovery programs, support groups, and treatments, this natural process almost immediately begins to help the brain heal.
Ever wonder why almost all addiction treatment involves some sort of group therapy or 12-step meeting attendance?
We have known this works for a very long time and now we know why! The connection with others is a major change factor. It is the process of engaging in these groups that is healing the person.
We take a very targeted approach to reconnecting individuals by teaching family members what is happening and why it is happening. This helps both the family members to understand what’s going on with their loved one and helps the person suffering from addiction to reconnect with their family and friends.
I just don’t believe in the old “Tough Love” philosophy. That philosophy teaches family and friends to push the person out of their lives until they “learn their lesson.” It is true that sometimes family and friends have to distance themselves for their own emotional safety, but the idea of instituting a “love withdrawal” as a technique that would make an addict get clean is absurd!