By Jim Seckman, MAC, CACII, CCS
CEO, MARR Addiction Treatment Center
The one thing we can never get enough of is love. And the one thing we never give enough is love. Henry Miller
Love is all you need. The Beatles
Ah, February, the month that we come up against Valentine’s Day. And whether you wholeheartedly plunge into the spirit of the day with cards, candies, and gifts for your loved one(s), or you believe that it’s a made-up holiday for the purpose of selling greeting cards, or the memorial celebration of the actual St. Valentine, it is a reminder of a very real facet of everyone’s life: love.
Love has been described as the most powerful force in the universe; the quality, the emotion, the feeling that will eventually overcome all else. This intense feeling of deep affection for our son, daughter, mother, father, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, or partner is the most written about, sung about, talked about, acted out, and misunderstood aspect of our humanity.
Love speaks to and from our heart.
But, when it comes to addiction, what’s love got to do with it? It seems like when our loved one begins to use drugs or alcohol, it gets all mixed up and confusing and agonizing. Suddenly, all the familiar feelings and behaviors get all twisted around into something unrecognizable. Our heart feels broken.
We want to still show that we love the person, but somehow, it’s all different.
When a person uses alcohol or drugs, it produces a change in the form and function of the brain that increases the level of a neurotransmitter called dopamine to such a level that the “top down” rational control of the prefrontal cortex is compromised, making it impossible for the person to make logical decisions or engage in relationships like they used to. And, because structures in the brain that have to do with memory are also affected, the drug gets linked to survival.
When that happens, they are willing to separate themselves from their loved ones and will do most anything to use again, because of the connection of the drug to survival gets locked into place.
Addiction radically affects every aspect of a person’s life: physical, mental, emotional, social, familial, spiritual. Everything is subordinated to the drug.
The spiritual core of our disease is self-centeredness. In dealing with others, the only motive our addiction taught us was selfishness—we wanted what we wanted when we wanted it. Obsession with self was rooted in the very ground of our lives. (From Just for Today by Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc.)
But you still feel the same towards them. You love them and it’s confusing and painful to watch them and your family go through this.
Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own. Robert A. Heinlein
I know you want what’s best for them. You want them to be free of pain. You want them to feel the love that you’re expressing to them. But, sometimes when we think we’re acting out of love with an intention of helping them it becomes something else: something that, instead of helping our loved one, becomes supportive of their continued drug use. Something that enables them to keep on using.
It is difficult to separate the disease of addiction, with the attendant behaviors and attitudes, from the person you know and love. And they will express very convincing arguments as to why they should get what they want. Then you’re left feeling frustrated and confused with a sense that something is just not right. Somehow, they seemed to have used your wanting the best for them to the advantage of the disease.
Trust yourself. When you feel frustrated, confused and/or anxious about their behaviors, their attitudes, and their arguments, just know that it is probably the disease that is speaking and is not in the best interest of your loved one or your family. Holding onto your boundaries is not hurting your loved one, it is holding the line against the hurt of addiction.
It’s really not that you don’t love them or trust them; you don’t (and shouldn’t) love or trust their addiction.