Explaining addiction to a non-addict might seem like a tall order. People carry deep misunderstandings about substance use disorders. Changing their thinking about addiction takes time and patience. However, it is essential to make the effort.
Misconceptions of addiction have very real consequences for people who need treatment. Many of those who need help the most never seek it because of the stigmas associated with addiction and addiction treatment. By having these difficult conversations, we break down those barriers and foster a better environment for people that desperately need help.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when explaining addiction to a non-addict…
Addiction Is a Disease
We now understand that addiction is a disease. The research is very clear on this point, yet many people still wrongly see substance use disorders as character flaws. If people think of addiction as a choice, they are doing a disservice to people suffering from this disease.
When someone changes their attitudes about addiction and understand that it is a treatable condition, they can separate the disease from the person. This is one of the most fundamental points to make when explaining addiction to a non-addict.
Anyone Can Become Addicted
No one is immune from addiction. Some people are more likely to suffer from substance use disorders than others, but anyone can become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Many factors play a role in addiction, including genetics, childhood trauma, mental health issues and other environmental factors.
Even if someone isn’t genetically predisposed to addiction, they could still develop a substance use disorder if they suffer trauma or learn unhealthy ways to hope with challenges. So, when explaining addiction to a non-addict, try to convey that they, too, could be suffering from a substance use disorder had they encountered certain challenges in life.
Addiction Is Not a Moral Failing or a Compulsion to Have a Good Time
It’s tempting for people who aren’t addicted to dismiss addiction as a moral failing or a weakness. They might also frame it as a person’s endless desire to have a good time. Thinking about substance use disorders in this way isn’t just wrong, it is harmful to people seeking help. If you speak to someone who talks about addiction in this way, remind them that addiction is a chronic, progressive disease that can be treated, just like other medical conditions.
Relapse Isn’t the End of Recovery
When diseases recur, most people would agree that the solution is to reassess treatment and determine the best path forward. The same is true of addiction recovery after someone relapses, but sadly, relapse is too often framed as a “moment of weakness.” Again, it’s vital we do not place a moral judgment when someone relapses. For many people struggling with addiction, recovery isn’t a straight line from substance use to a substance-free life. They can experience setbacks, but it should never mean that someone’s recovery has ended.
Support is Necessary in Recovery
Recovery requires hard work. Without support, it’s exponentially harder. Support comes in many forms, from counselors to sponsors to concerned loved ones. If you are explaining addiction to a non-addict, make sure they are aware of the importance of support in recovery.
The Way You Speak About Addiction Matters
Addiction treatment professionals use very specific language when talking about addiction and people suffering from addiction. They avoid using words like “clean” and “dirty.” Even words like “addict” and “abuser” are now falling out of favor because these terms fail to separate the person from the disease. If you’re tasked with explaining addiction to a non-addict, encourage them to become familiar with more accurate language.
Explaining Addiction to a Non-Addict Isn’t Easy, So Be Patient
When explaining addiction to a non-addict, be patient. Perhaps you’re struggling with a substance use disorder, and you want to convey to a loved one what you’re going through. Maybe you’re advocating for your friend or family member, and you’re hoping to help another loved one to achieve a better understanding of this condition. You’re doing the right thing by having this conversation, but don’t forget that it takes time to change people’s ways of thinking.
If You Need Help, Contact Makana Path
At Makana Path, we help people on their journey to a substance-free life. We know that recovery isn’t easy. We also understand that having access to support and finding the right tools makes all the difference. To learn more about our intensive healing program, contact Makana Path today by calling 1-866-905-4550.