One individual’s addiction has the power to potentially affect the lives of everyone who cares about that person. It is perhaps one of the few conditions that continue to have negative consequences even after it is under control. It is also a unique condition in that once a person develops an addiction, he or she will never stop being an addict. Managing an addiction is a process that can only progress one day at a time. This is a limitation of the model of addiction; no other condition informs a person’s identity the way addiction does.
What Challenges Does a Recovering Addict Face?
Perhaps the most devastating effect of addiction is the loss of time. People lose years to drugs and alcohol. In addition to repairing the physical damage that drugs cause, an addict has to invest years in the work of regaining the trust of his or her loved ones. An illness like cancer does not cause people to steal from and lie to their friends and families. The fear of having to face others without the fog of drugs makes addicts reluctant to seek treatment. They are scared to face people that they have knowingly wronged.
A Group Effort
The truth is that overcoming an addiction is not a solo endeavor. It depends on other people’s willingness to be forgiving. An addict without a solid support system is almost always going to relapse. Paradoxically, the support system will not be there if the addict has not already done some work to win people back into his life. The addict has to be strong enough to start mending fences before any of the real work toward recovery has begun.
Over 23 million Americans are addicted to at least one substance. Roughly 15 million people are alcoholics, while 4 million are dependent on illegal drugs. The remaining 4 million people are addicted to both drugs and alcohol. Less than 2 million of these 23 million people have ever sought serious treatment for their addictions, which is worrisome. Addicts are over 10 times more likely than non-addicts to commit suicide, which makes these statistics even more ominous.
It is easy to see why so many addicts would rather find a way out than work to put their lives back together; it is unlikely that their lives will ever be exactly as they were before. Most immediately, addicts struggle with finances. They would have sold most of their possessions of value while in the throes of addiction, and they may have stolen from their families, making it that much harder for them to figure out post-treatment living situations. It can take years to pay off old debts and regain one’s footing in his career field. Significant others might be lost forever, and relationships with children might bear some permanent scars. These are just a few of the obstacles that addicts need to be prepared to face.
It is easy to see why so many addicts relapse. Though the realities of physical addictions should not be taken lightly, it is important to understand the uphill battle that addicts face. If they feel that they will never make any headway toward fixing the damage they have inflicted upon themselves and others, they might decide to give up and stop trying. This is why it is so important for an addict to have a support system. The first step toward recovery is inpatient treatment, but the second step is a collaborative effort between the addict and the people who still have faith in him. A little forgiveness goes a long way toward setting the stage for long-term sobriety.