Addictions to drugs, alcohol, activities, or behaviours can be some of the most difficult personal obstacles to overcome. For family and friends of people struggling with addictions, the reality of recovery is not like how it’s shown in pop culture, and it’s hard to know how to help. This can be especially true in a city like Calgary, where many workers experience hardships during economic downturns – and many addictions take hold.
Whether it’s you or someone you know having difficulties with one, it’s always good to try and understand why addictions are so hard to stop.
Addiction Is Not a Choice
This is one of the most popular myths perpetuated by movies and other media. While the messaging has definitely improved in the last twenty years, there is still a very common perception that addicts are “choosing” to be stuck in the cycle. This can be one of the most damaging approaches to overcoming an addiction, because the people who should be a support network for someone are instead hurting them even more.
While there may have been an element of personal choice to take certain drugs or follow a certain path, even being in that situation in the first place is usually the result of a long line of socioeconomic factors beyond a person’s control. And, once an addiction takes hold, it can literally affect the brain’s physiology and create chemical cravings for harmful substances – so much so that a hard withdrawal can be fatal. Statistically, addictions affect people in low-income groups or those who have a co-occurring mental health disorder more than anyone else. It’s not because they chose to use drugs or act maliciously; it’s because their lifestyles and social pressures are much more likely to lean in that direction.
And speaking of social pressures…
Addictions Are Tied to Social Networks
If someone with an addiction is surrounded by other people undergoing the same issues, it will be incredibly difficult to have a meaningful break from that behaviour and maintain a different course. There’s a reason why rehabilitation centres are based on groups therapies rather than individual treatment – humans need to feel supported, heard, and capable of the change they are attempting.
Of course, keeping a good support network is difficult when some of the symptoms of addiction cause major conflict with friends and family. Theft of prescription drugs from other people, irresponsibility with money, irritability of mood, or a lack of concern and empathy will all strain relationships. It takes immense patience and a good heart to stand by someone in their hardest, darkest times – but that’s something that a person with an addiction needs the most.
Addictions Are Used to Cope with Trauma
Many people turn to drugs and harmful behaviours as a way to cope with negative experiences and memories. Rather than face these traumas in a healthy way, such as therapy or creative expression, they find it easier to numb them with substances, gambling, sexual encounters, or other detrimental outlets.
Because of this, addictions can become crutches for people, and once they have taken hold, sufferers feel ill-equipped to deal with daily life without them. Behaviours like binge drinking or excessive drug use cover up deeper disorders like PTSD, anxiety, or depression, and as harmful as addictions are, they are seen as a source of familiar safety and comfort that shuts down other pains. Overcoming this perception can be extremely difficult and requires ongoing support and assistance to help prevent relapses along the way.
Helping Someone with Addiction
If you are or know someone with an addiction in Calgary, you may not know where to turn for help. You may not even know which sources to trust when you do. But looking for guidance and useful information is the first step toward proper treatment and eventual recovery.
At Your Counselling, our team of professional therapists in Calgary’s Beltline neighbourhood (just south of the downtown core) can provide treatment options and advice. We even offer online services, so – whether you’re in Auburn Bay, Aspen Woods, Taradale, or Tuscany – we can effectively help you or your loved ones. We specialize in therapies that help individuals overcome addictions, process trauma, learn emotional management strategies, and other useful techniques to cope with stress in healthier ways.
When you’re ready to reach out and start the conversation, simply give us a call or send an email to book a free 15-minute consultation, where we can decide together on the best course of action to take. We look forward to providing you, your family member, or your friend with the advice and treatment needed to find a healthy and balanced addictions-free lifestyle.