Understandably, some people question whether addiction is a legitimate problem or if it’s merely an excuse for people to misbehave and avoid responsibility.
Friends and loved ones of a person with alcohol or substance use disorder (SUD) may have been lied to, betrayed, stolen from, or even physically threatened or harmed. These behaviors destroy trust and make it difficult to believe anything the addicted person says — even when they say they want help.
If you or someone you care about is seeking addiction treatment in Costa Mesa, it’s essential first to understand that addiction is an actual disease. Psychology Today defines addiction as both a psychological and physiological disorder.
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Other experts describe addiction as a long-term, relapsing condition characterized by an individual’s compulsive use of drugs or alcohol despite adverse consequences.
Addiction and the Brain
Simply put, addiction is the brain craving the reward it gets from a certain substance. In severe cases of addiction, a person will do or say almost anything to get that reward.
Substance use directly affects the brain’s reward center. When someone ingests substances, they react with the limbic system to produce endorphins or “feel good” chemicals that elicit a feeling of euphoria. The feelings can be so strong that the desire to experience them again may override everything else in that person’s life.
Over time, the brain becomes dependent on the substance to produce what were once naturally occurring chemicals. Once a person becomes dependent, they must ingest the substance regularly to avoid withdrawal symptoms which can cause various physical and psychological problems.
The Brain’s Plasticity
The brain changes that occur with substance use are due to the brain’s plasticity. Plasticity is the basis of all learning and helps humans change and adapt to new situations.
In the case of addiction, the brain learns it no longer needs to produce certain chemicals because outside sources provide them. Therefore, the neuropathways responsible for that job shut down. In essence, the brain rewires itself to cope with new input.
Unfortunately, some of those neuropathways run through the prefrontal cortex — the brain’s decision-making center. As addiction becomes more severe, the addicted person becomes less and less capable of making good decisions.
This is not an excuse for negative behavior, nor does it imply an addicted person should not be held responsible for their actions. An important aspect of addiction recovery is taking responsibility for your own behavior.
However, it is also crucial for loved ones to understand that poor decision-making is not a moral failing. It is part of the disease of addiction. The good news is that the same plasticity that adapts to substance use also helps with recovery after substance use stops.
Helping or Enabling: Which are You Doing?
Just as it is necessary for the addicted person to take responsibility for their actions, it is also necessary for loved ones to take responsibility for theirs. Some behaviors that seem helpful may be contributing to a person’s substance use, making it easier for them to continue making poor choices.
You may be enabling your loved one if you:
- Ignore or excuse their problematic behaviors
- Fail to set or uphold boundaries
- Try to solve their problems for them
- Lie for them
- Take on their responsibilities such as childcare or calling into work sick for them.
- Financially support addictive behaviors by allowing them to live at your house or giving them money
Lasting recovery requires more than treating the person with the addiction. It requires treatment for the whole family system. Admitting that you’ve enabled someone else’s addiction and ending codependency is as important to your mental health as it is to theirs.
Find Addiction Treatment in Costa Mesa at Clear Life Recovery
At Clear Life Recovery, we don’t accept excuses, but we do accept every patient just the way they are. Addiction recovery starts with an honest look at who you are without judgment or criticism.
Our welcoming team is here to help every patient get the treatment they need regardless of the past. If you or someone you know is looking for addiction treatment in Costa Mesa, contact Clear Life Recovery today.