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How to Help Your Loved One Understand What Addiction is Like

It’s hard to understand addiction if you have never been through it. From the outside, addiction makes no sense. It appears self-destructive, and often, the addict herself hates her addiction but doesn’t stop. The addicted mindset is so remote from most people’s experience. They don’t understand why you don’t just quit, or slow down, or get help. Helping your loved one better understand what you’re going through can bridge that gap and make it easier for the people around you to be supportive in recovery.

That assumes, of course, that they want to understand. You can’t help someone appreciate your perspective if they don’t care at all. Most people who care about you, though, do care about what you’re feeling and want to understand. It’s just hard. Here are some ways you can help them.

Bring them to an open meeting.

If you’ve been going to meetings, you already know that many people face similar challenges with addiction. Bringing a loved one to an open meeting can show her it’s not only you struggling with these problems. Hearing stories from a lot of different people drives home the point that addiction is not something you control, or even something you enjoy. These themes emerge over and over again. Eventually, you get a picture of how addictive thinking works. You might also suggest she attend Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meetings.

Show them research.

There has been a lot of research about addiction from both behavioral and physiological perspectives. There a many images of how addiction changes your brain and rewires your thinking. If the person you are trying to get through to is of an empirical or logical disposition, showing her the research might be the best way to convince her that trying really hard to quit is not usually good enough. For example, if a brain scan shows the prefrontal cortex is no longer involved in the addictive behavior, it’s hard to argue that you just need to exercise more self-control.

Find points of connection.

While most people find it hard to understand the most destructive and behavior-altering addictions, most people share some common points of reference with addicts. It’s far more common, for example, for someone to have struggled and repeatedly failed to quit smoking or lose weight, and these struggles might be a window into addictive behavior. Of course, they may have never thought of them that way, even though smoking and obesity kill more people than drugs every year. They are more common and therefore less stigmatized. It doesn’t have to be a severe addiction. Maybe something like spending way too much time on Facebook could be the starting point for discussion.

It perhaps goes without saying that they will never completely understand. No one really understands what it’s like to be someone else. You can get a rough idea at best. Also, some people are just more empathetic. These strategies might help bridge the gap, though, and help your loved ones better understand how to help you.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.