How to approach Addiction for family and caregivers

Reference: The Two Norries Podcast – 15 May 2021 with Dr Gabor Mate

Trauma = wound, the pain we hold within our bodies.
Addiction = Addiction is manifested in any behavior that a person craves, finds temporary relief or pleasure in but suffers negative consequences as a result of, and yet has difficulty giving up

‘It’s very painful, it’s very difficult, it’s very frustrating and heartbreaking to be close to someone who is addicted and whose path you’d like to influence for the better but you find yourself powerless to do so. So how can you approach it??

There is three ways, two of them are sane, one of them is insane.

  1. SANE – say to the addicted person, I’m not trying to change you I know that right now, something is driving you to pursue these addictive behaviours and I imagine that something inside you is some kind of pain and I understand and I don’t judge you, but it’s too painful for me to be around, I don’t know how to handle my feelings that come up for me when I see you, I’m not doing this to punish you I love you, I want to be here for you, but right now I can’t be around you because I don’t know how to handle the emotions that I get around you. It’s not your fault and you’re not doing it to me but I’m too stressed around it.
  2. SANE – say, right now you’re doing your (behaviour) and I know that you must have some powerful drive inside you to tell you to do that and I don’t know that I don’t understand it, but I know it must be some kind of pain, and this must be soothing the pain and I accept that and you don’t need to be any different for me to love you and be around you I can be with it. I won’t put up with being manipulated, lied to or stolen from, but I don’t need to interfere with your life, it’s your life not mine, I’m here for you.
  3. INSANE – to be in that persons life and try to change them, to try to stop them cajole them, threaten them, bribe them, beg them to be different, because that makes you dependent on them to be different, so that you can feel better, that makes you co-dependent, and that means you have your own problems.

When you push on people to be different, even though we’re trying to impel them in the right direction, they’re going to push back, all you’re going to get back is resistance. Don’t create more resistance.

Sometimes you hear about interventions, it’s nonsense hardly every works. Studies are not very promising.

The family says to the addicted one, ‘You know we get that you’re carrying a lot of pain and you need to do this behaviour to soothe that pain, and we also know that that behaviour didn’t start with you it happened in your family of origin, we all contributed to it, not that we meant to, somehow we did’. (Trauma is always multi-generational, we pass down our traumas to our kids) It doesn’t begin with any one particular person, nobody should be blamed for it, but at the same time everyone has to take responsibility for it. ‘You know we get that this trauma is multi-generational it’s been in this family system for decades or generations, you happen to be one of the sensitive ones that absorbed a lot of bad and your addiction represents that pain that our absorbed from your environment. It’s not our fault, it’s not your fault, we are all responsible so how about if we all heal together, and we invite you to join in that healing process, but we are going to undertake that healing journey whether or not you’re ready to join us or not, but we invite you to’.

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