January 5, 2015

“Excuse the disease?”

Understanding - 100PedalsPlease explain to me why we excuse the choice to use drugs by saying it is a disease? To me a disease is cancer. No one chooses to get cancer and then fight it. I love food. I think about eating lots of yummy things I shouldn’t because I am diabetic; but, I don’t. Does that make me an addict fighting a disease? I’ve been told that having diabetes is no different than being a heroin addict. I understand that addiction is the need to use something; but, why are people not held accountable for their choice? Perhaps I’m just a bad mother. But. I simply cannot excuse horrible behaviors or bad choices by simply calling it a disease. Please help me understand. ~ Shared by a mom dealing with addiction in her family

I don’t believe that anyone deserves to be “excused” from their actions or their choices. We all make decisions. We have all made some pretty bad ones. Many of our adverse outcomes can be directly connected to past bad decisions. Hopefully, we have learned from them. When it comes to the disease of addiction, what is needed is a little more understanding, a little less judging, and a lot more selfless loving.  Our children’s addiction issues are not about us; it is about them, what they need from us to get through this, and how we respond to this situation in our life.

Don’t excuse the behavior or the disease, understand and respond to it from a place of love and knowledge.

Making a decision to take drugs is a bad choice. With all the information out there, one would hope our children would somehow know better and not choose to do something as stupid as taking drugs.

Some do. Some don’t. Some stop. Some can’t. Some escape. Some won’t.

Most every adolescent will experiment with some form of risky behavior. It is part of growing up. It is part of the learning curve. Those that do are looking for an outlet for their emotional state of mind. Being an adolescent is the most turbulent period in a person’s life. Their bodies are changing, their minds are evolving, their hormones are raging; and, they are afraid, confused, worried about the transitions in their present and future life. This is natural, it is normal and it is unavoidable.

Fortunately, many adolescents find a path through this dark period without doing something destructive or with permanent consequences. Some experiment and escape serious outcomes to their risky behaviors. Others get trapped by the results of their choices. Addiction is one of those traps.

Once trapped by the disease of addiction, it is a difficult, long, challenging battle. That battle is only won when the person with the disease recognizes they have a disease and are willing to treat it. It is only when someone decides to battle or accept their disease as a problem that they will then seek out and embrace treatment for it.  Not before and definitely not because someone else tells them to.

They have to realize that something is wrong, they have to recognize how dangerous the situation is on their terms, and they have to decide to ask for help.  Until then, it is not a problem just because you see it as one.

You do not need to excuse the behaviors of a person with an addiction. You are not required to tolerate it. You are free to create and define boundaries that demonstrate your unwillingness to participate in a lifestyle that maintains it. Do you let people who have been drinking drive you, do you let people smoke in your house, do you remind people that swearing is offensive – these are all examples of boundaries you set for behaviors you will not accept.  You can and need to create the same boundaries with those who have an addiction or are abusing drugs.

When it comes to tolerance you need to recognize and accept that until they see their choices as a problem, there is little or nothing you can do to alter their behaviors. It is not constructive to judge or compare the decisions or actions of the underdeveloped, teenage mind for their immature decisions in the same context as a developed, adult mind making mature choices. Instead, focus on educating the adolescent to find better, more positive outlets for their emotional struggles before they do something that may hurt them.  If they are already trapped, focus on defining and creating clear, consistent boundaries for their behaviors and hope these actions will interrupt their path.  Peace!

Author’s note: Recommend “Beyond the Yellow Brick Road” by Bob Meehan. The teachings in his book are the source of much of the perspectives offered in this article.  

Parenting and Addiction , , , , , , ,
About Dave Cooke

Dave Cooke is a dad on a mission. His mission is to help parents get control of their lives over the powerful, destructive influences of a child's addiction. As the father of a son in a ten year heroin battle, Dave knows all to well the challenges parents and families face. He also knows there is a way to find peace in the chaos. It is his mission to help parents discover their path to a healthier, balanced life even if a child's active addiction is still part of their daily journey.