Unresolved pain or trauma isn’t an “excuse” for addiction. It’s an attempt to understand the WHY’s.
Why did they start?
Why can’t they just quit?
What can I do to support them without enabling?
There is no one size fits all answers but I’m convinced that if we can have some compassion with that they are getting out of the addiction; we can better help them recover. (Because if negative consequences cured addiction, there would be no addicts).
This very short video by CMC Foundation for Change, explains how families can help by just acknowledging, not treating or diagnosing the pain.
From Lorelie Rozzano’s Facebook Post:
“Is Pain Feeding Your Addiction?
Gabor Maté asks, “Not why the addiction, but why the pain?”
Let’s face it, we all experience emotional pain. Life doesn’t always go as planned. But for the most part, we dust ourselves off, pick ourselves up, and carry on. In the process, we learn that pain is our teacher. It tells us when changes are needed. From pain emerges growth, and from growth, wisdom.
Pain can be a beautiful thing.
But not everyone will learn from it. Addicted individuals don’t cope well with pain due to disordered brain chemistry. Instead of feeling their pain, they react to it. People who abuse substances don’t acknowledge pain through healthy communication. Instead, they act out through unhealthy behavioral styles such as avoidance or silent treatment, or on the opposite spectrum, yelling, swearing, slamming doors, punching holes in walls, and throwing things. They may become verbally abusive, and some even physically abusive.
If you hang out with someone struggling with addiction long enough, you will observe that their problems and feelings seem more prominent than the rest of us. You’ve experienced uncomfortable emotions, too, but you don’t react the way your addicted loved one does.
So why do people struggling with addiction have such a difficult time with emotional pain?
One theory is that addiction is genetic. Although it can skip a generation, it runs in families the same way blue eyes do. This is why it’s called an ‘environmental’ (meaning home) illness. When you grow up in an addicted home, you learn to walk on eggshells and stuff your feelings (expressing feelings in addicted families can create division and hostility). Keeping the peace means avoiding confrontation, resulting in emotional immaturity. Although your physical body ages, you feel like a child on the inside and may struggle with feelings of inferiority. When you lack self-worth, you don’t ask for what you want or need. Instead, you suffer in silence or resentment. To compensate, you look to people/places and things to bridge the gap. The first time you get high or rescue someone who does, you fall in love with the feeling. No more pain. No more anxiety. No more inferiority. Getting high and enabling are Band-Aids for emotional distress. Although they numb the sting temporarily, they create deeper wounds. So the cycle begins. Pain, numb, pain, numb… soon, your disordered brain is looking for things to feel pain over, to reward its pleasure circuit. It tricks you by telling you there’s hurt where there is none.
When you’re predisposed to addiction, avoiding emotions can cost you your life, as addiction distorts emotional pain into a lethal brew of self-pity, blame, and resentment. This triplicate is a deadly combo, allowing the addicted person to feel justified in using.
When I went to treatment, I learned addiction used my pain against me. It fed on my emotional pain, twisted it, corrupted it, exaggerated it, and made me gravely ill.
Long before entering treatment, I needed help but couldn’t ask for it. I thought people who admitted their problems were weak. But I was wrong. People who find the courage to acknowledge and overcome challenges are warriors! It turns out real courage isn’t the lack of fear, but facing your fear and doing it anyway.
When you struggle with addiction, your mind will tell you it’s too hard to get clean and sober. Here’s the hard part, and it’s a BIG one. You can’t trust what you think. When your best thinking is destroying you, it’s time to accept help.
But there is GREAT news!!!
Addiction is treatable! You can get well!
Substance use disorder isn’t really about drugs and alcohol. It’s the absence of self. This void is described as a hole in your soul, and you can’t love others when you’re empty inside. Therapy peels back the painful layers and heals that void through connection, honesty, and hard work. To love oneself is the beginning of lifelong recovery.
If you’re contemplating rehab, know this. It’s the best decision you’ll ever make for yourself and your family. Reach out for help and find out what 23 million North Americans have already discovered… We do recover!”