Written by: Leah Roberts

What if..

Instead of shunning addicts, we created opportunities for them?
Instead of placing barriers, we connected with them?
Instead of threatening our bonds with them, we supported them?

What if we tried a different approach?

The Opposite of Addiction is Connection

Our last blog, The Opposite of Addiction is Connection, created a little buzz. We had countless comments, messages, and opinions floating around the internet. We understand- it is certainly a controversial topic, and not a popular opinion at best, when it comes to addiction in this country.

First, we want to clarify that our last piece was written as a suggestion, to open the mind to other methods of responding to addicts. We were not suggesting to lift the ban on illegal drugs, as Portugal had. We are also not suggesting Enabling your addict, or suggesting that supporting them will “change” them. We are offering to connect with our addicts and to strengthen that connection with them. NOT to ‘change’ them, or ‘fix’ them or enable them.

But rather, as friends, family, loved ones, and as countrymen, that perhaps we have been going about this concept of addiction, all wrong. That perhaps the misconceptions of addiction that we’ve been taught throughout the entirety of our lives, could be RE-taught. That we could simply open our minds to a more modern approach, opinion, and opportunity.

This one’s for the family and loved ones of an addict.

Welcome to Opposite of Addiction is Connection Series- 2.0.

Strengthening the Bond with Our Addict

First, let us say that Connecting with our addict, is NOT the same thing as enabling our addict.

THIS IS VITAL. Do not confuse Connecting, with enabling. This is not what we mean by Connection. It is not enabling our addict, nor is it abandoning our addict or threatening our relationship with them if they don’t ‘clean up their act’, right?

The objective of Connection, is to express to our addict, that we love them, and always will. To raise awareness that we are available to them, should they need us- that we are here to support them. That they can call on us when they are feeling hopeless, or depressed, or lost. They can trust us enough to open their hearts to us in a time of need, and that we will purely offer our advice, and our bond with them.

There are steps to take to do this. We understand it is not difficult to execute this method. To try to stay positive, and supportive and to remain a source of light for our addict. Naturally, as a family member, what do we do after awhile of facing the addicts in our lives? We get restless- sometimes hopeless, angry, sad, or upset?

We confront them in what they’re doing, and usually say something like, “If you don’t stop using, I’m done helping you.” We are saying that if they don’t stop, we can’t be a part of their lives anymore right?

So we are taking the connection we have with our addict, and threatening it; using it as leverage. We are making it contingent upon their behavior.

What if we took a different approach instead? What if instead, we say to the addict that we want to deepen and strengthen the connection with them, rather than using dangling it in front of them like a toy in front of a child? Because haven’t we already tried this? Though there are exceptions to every rule, most often this method does not work for us!

So instead, what if we say “I love you, whether you are using or not, I love you no matter what state you’re in. And if you need me, I am here for you. I will come sit with you, because I love you, and I don’t want you to be alone.”

The Idea of Connection

The idea of Connection, is that we retain our bond, connection, and relationship with our addict, and that we always offer our support. We strengthen our connection with them. Whether this means attending a meeting with them, or visiting them while they are in treatment. It could be something as simple as sitting with them when they are feeling alone. There is a world’s difference between enabling your addict, and connecting with them.

We also have to remember that during this process of supporting them, or strengthening our bond with them, is not meant to “change” them. A common misconception. It is NOT your job to “change” the addict- it is simply your job to further your connection with them.

We are offering to connect with them and to strengthen that connection. Not to change them or enable them.

Connecting at a Safe Distance

Before this concept of connection, we have tried different approaches to help our addict. We’ve tried everything from enabling, to keeping a safe distance, to completely cutting them off. But cutting them out of our lives is not easy- it hurts.

It hurts us to watch them hurt themselves, and hurt others. It hurts to watch them slowly slip into their abyss, becoming someone we hardly recognize. It breaks our hearts to watch them gradually lose themselves to their addiction. It hurts us even more to break this bond with them, and it hurts them too.

So where is the middle ground, between over-compensating by enabling them, and altogether abandoning them?

Connection. Bonding. Relationships. LOVE.

Our Natural Need to Bond

They are still human. They require connection, love, and bonding. Abandoning them like everyone else has, does not solve our problem, or theirs. It creates more problems on a larger scale.

Human beings have a natural and innate need to bond. When we’re happy and healthy, it is because we are bonding and connecting with each other. But if you can’t do that, because your bonds have been tampered with, or you’re traumatized, isolated, abandoned, or beaten down by life- you will bond with something that will give you some sense of relief. Now, that could be gambling, it could be pornography, it could be cocaine or cannabis. You will bond and connect with something because that is our nature. That is what we want as human beings.

We can’t break the one chance they have to recover.

What if you break this bond with your addict? Then that is just one more connection they no longer have. One more reason they don’t have, to get sober. And without relationships, love, bonds, and connections that humans naturally need, what reason does an addict have to get sober?

The Core Part of Addiction is Not Being Able to Bare, Being Present in Your Life.

In society, we punish addicts; we shame them, we give them criminal records. As a society, we place barriers between them, and society; between their opportunity of reconnecting with society. We as family members or loved ones often threaten our personal bonds, connections, and relationships with them.

Have we ever stopped to think that maybe they turn back to their substance because they are out of hope? When society has turned their back on them- they’re unable to get a job now, they’re unable to get a house now, they can’t reconnect with society. Now they can’t build their relationships because they’ve been abandoned, or broken.

They are left without hope, because reconnection is now impossible on all fronts.

Our Job as Family and Loved Ones

It’s our job as family and loved ones to remind them that they are more than their addiction. That they have bonds and relationships they need be present for. People who love them and support them. It is those exact bonds, relationships, connections, that will drive an addict to recovery.

It is our job to give them purpose. 

When we have bonds and connections we want to be present for, it is easier for us to want to exist in our lives. It provides us with incentive and motivation. These bonds could be anything from a job that we love, to the people that we love, or the responsibilities we need to be present for. Addiction can be overcome with connections, bonds, and relationships. Again, we are offering to connect with them and to strengthen that connection. Not to change them or enable them.

The common notion that enabling them, or even abandoning them in their most desire time of need, clearly is not working. Our country is still ravished with drug use and addiction. So as family members and loved ones, let’s start with one addict at a time- our addict.

What if..

Instead of shunning addicts, we created opportunities for them?
Instead of placing barriers, we connected with them?
Instead of threatening our bonds with them, we supported them?

What if we tried a different approach?

 

 

 

Take a minute to watch this Ted Talk our Addiction Connection blog’s are in alignment with.

The Opposite of Addiction is Connection Series- 2.0
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