Why Can’t They Stop Drinking or Drugging?

This Is Madness, Why Can’t They Stop Drinking or Drugging?

I remember many early conversations that began to sprout with friends and family as our loved ones began to struggle more deeply with substance addiction. “Why can’t they stop drinking or drugging?”

“Is it a disease or a choice?”

“How did this get so out of control?

“What is happening?”

“Why don’t they see that they need help?”

“The consequences are getting horrible, not only have lost jobs and financial security, they are beginning to loose custody of their children and all sibilance of the life they worked so hard for, WHY CAN”T THEY QUIT DRINKING?” (or drugging).

I did not understand much about addiction in the beginning, and was constantly alarmed by the increasing drama and confusing actions that surrounded my loved ones who struggled with addiction. In reality, it wasn’t until years (ok, maybe decades) later, after I began my own journey into recovery (read more on my recovery here) from behavioral addiction and codependency, that I really began to find answers to these questions above. Until I began learning about addiction, I constantly asked “why can’t they stop drinking or drugging?”

Why do some people become addicted and others don’t?

There are many factors that could play a role for why people begin relying on substances. Including, genetic predisposition, someone’s upbringing or environment, mental health disorders, or using substances at an early age. One of my favorite books right now is What Happened to you?, by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D. and Oprah Winfrey. Their discussion on addiction was remarkable. “Addiction is complex. But I believe that many people who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse are actually trying to self-medicate due to their developmental histories of adversity and trauma,” Dr. Perry.

There are a variety of reasons that people begin to start using substance, and people can use substances without getting addicted. According to the book, those who have not developmentally learned to self-regulate during developmentally critical stages of their youth, are more prone to become addicted to substances. “For people who are pretty well-regulated, who basic needs have been met, who have other healthy forms of reward, taking a drug will have some impact, but the pull to come back and use again and again is not as powerful. It may be a pleasurable feeling, but you’re not necessarily going to become addicted.”

Why Can’t They Stop Drinking?

So, there are many reasons that your loved ones begins to drink or use substances, but what prevents them from having the ability to STOP? Why can’t they stop drinking or drugging? A helpful insight from Dr. George Koob, director of National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “A common misperception is that addiction is a choice or moral problem, and all you have to do is stop. But nothing could be further from the truth, the brain actually changes with addiction, and it takes a good deal of work to get it back to its normal state. The more drugs or alcohol you’ve taken, the more disruptive it is to the brain.”

I like to view things simply, so this is my simplified version of why they can’t stop:

  1. Loved one begins to cope with lives challenges through substance use.
  2. This lights up the pleasure centers of the brain, and decreases the pain.
  3. It feels so good at the time, in that moment the pain is gone.
  4. After time, the reward or pleasure fades and the pain comes back.
  5. The need to refill the pleasure or reward returns.
  6. Brain begins to change, need for more and more substance to fill the pleasure increases.
  7. The more substances used, the more the brain has changed.
  8. The harder it becomes to get the brain back to a normal functioning.
  9. Changing the brain is tough work, and goes beyond just willpower.
  10. Through time with working with behavioral therapies, and sometimes medications, the brain can begin to heal.
  11. The more the loved one can recovery their sense of Self-Love, Self-Forgiveness, and Self-compassion the more the brain can change and heal. 🙂

Things to Remember

As we continue to dive into the understanding of addiction and the effects it has on individuals and their family members, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. It’s not your fault – addiction begins from the internal framework and experiences of your loved one. Not because of anything you’ve done.
  2. Get Informed – knowledge is key to accept and love others exactly as they are.
  3. Begin your own recovery – it takes time to process and heal from living around loved ones who struggle with addiction.

The chaos and heartache of watching your loved ones struggle with addiction is life changing. And most often, not in the good “life changing” way. It has a way of producing constant confusion and disfunction, removing most forms of normalcy. The best way I have found to regain my own sanity and calm, is to embark on my own healing journey. This includes learning about addiction, reclaiming my choices for my own life, and connecting to the deep calm and light that reside within.

Healing is possible, even when we feel crazy. Even if our loved ones continue to use substances, we can find hope in our own recovery. Check out my free 40 Day Yoga Journey for Consistency on YouTube if you are ready to begin your own journey towards healing today. It is a simple movement and meditation practice, fostering consistency for your own recovery.

Sending so much light and love!

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