Why Can’t They Just Stop?
If most addicts are like I was, they find it hard to get out of their own way. They don’t like being an addict. That’s something a lot of people don’t understand. No addict likes being an addict and no addict wants to stay an addict.
The thing is, the addict found something that finally worked for them. Some grew up in great families and had everything they needed. But beyond all the family love and support and material things, there was something missing. And whatever that void was (and it’s different for everyone), drugs filled it. No counselor, social worker, or psychiatric medication could even touch what the drugs were able to do. And for those euphoric effects, they kept using. They kept using to feel the numbness take over their bodies and minds. They used so they didn’t have to feel badly about what they just stole, so they didn’t have to face their mounting debts. And because they lost another job because they came in high. They just kept using, no matter what.
This is my story. And this is the same story for many addicts. In this time of a pandemic of drug use, many people out there don’t have the faintest clue as to how to help an addict. Many people say:
“Why can’t you stop?”
“He just needs a purpose in life, then he’ll stop using.”
“It’s a phase. Besides, she’s not willing to do anything about it…”
These are defeatist statements that don’t allow anyone to do anything about a person abusing drugs and honestly, these very statements are why some addicts continue to use. And no one is really going to stop them.
The first thing people must realize to help an addict is that drug use is not just a phase someone will outgrow. It’s a lifestyle choice, yes, but drug use is also a coping mechanism. Since drugs are a solution to life’s problems, addicts use them to deal with life. No matter what life brings, an addict can always dive head-first into a baggie of cocaine, meth, or heroin and numb it all away, forgetting about everything. Drugs become the way an addict refuses to deal with reality. If they don’t deal with reality, then all the problems are, well, not real and they don’t have to think about them or deal with them. If a person is high, their life problems are the furthest thing from their mind. So, get it out of your head that they will out-grow it because they won’t.
Secondly, stop allowing the addict to be an addict. If family and friends bail the addict out of every crisis they get themselves into because of drugs, what’s to keep them from continuing to do it? They’re getting no real consequences because everyone fixes their problems for them, requiring little to no effort on the part of the addict other than convincing people to help them. Human beings learn from mistakes and learn from trial-and-error. If the addict falls and gets himself into a bad situation, then mom and dad come in quickly to fix everything, then what has the addict learned? The addict has learned the solution to his problems are convincing his parents to fix them for him. The addict never has to face up to what he’s done or figure anything out for himself.
An addict cannot “just stop” using drugs. Drug abuse is a deeply-ingrained behavior that takes a lot of time to develop. An addict doesn’t become an addict overnight and it takes a while to develop an addiction that completely overtakes a person’s life. Since the drugs are the very way addicts deal with life, it’s very unlikely an addict will “just stop” on their own one day. That’s like saying to someone “why don’t you just stop paying your mortgage.” A person pays their mortgage as that helps them to survive by keeping a roof over their heads, just as an addict using drugs helps them to survive by “handling” all their problems.
There are many ways you can help an addict but there are more ways you can hurt an addict. You hurt an addict by enabling them to continue doing what they’re doing and bailing them out of every bad situation they get themselves into. You hurt an addict by thinking their drug abuse is no big deal and “just a phase”. And you hurt an addict by thinking they can “just stop.” The best way to help is to realize the addiction is something that needs an outside intervention and will get worse if left untreated. The best way to help is to get them into a long-term, residential treatment program that will get to the bottom of why the person became an addict in the first place.
Then, the addict stands a fighting chance to finally live a normal life.