It IS a Disease

A couple of days ago, I wrote about some friends of mine who are headed toward divorce.  Due to some very public drama on Facebook (a good reminder to me why I don’t share that type of stuff on social media) I found out why things are ending.

It’s because of substance abuse.  I knew that one of them was struggling with addiction.  I thought it was under control.  I was wrong.  This horrible, life-destroying disease is tearing apart their family, and it made me want to cry all over again.  I know how powerful, how destructive it is.  I know the grip it can have on a person, even when not using.

I’ve heard people say that addiction isn’t a disease.  According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance abuse:

Addiction is a complex disease of the brain and body that involves compulsive use of one or more substances despite serious health and social consequences. Addiction disrupts regions of the brain that are responsible for reward, motivation, learning, judgment and memory. It damages various body systems as well as families, relationships, schools, workplaces and neighborhoods.

I, for one, believe it is hereditary.  I have seen it trickle down family trees as sure as blue eyes or twins – if it’s in your family, you’re more likely to get it than if it’s not.  It has repeatedly – by legitimate medical groups – been decreed a disease.

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I know my friends are aware of 12-step programs for people who have the disease.  I wonder if they are as familiar with the 12-step program for those who are affected by someone else’s disease.

I was in Al-Anon.  I initially went to find out how to help my addict.  I went to learn how to change him.  Thankfully, I learned how to change me.  I learned that the only way I would have peace was to learn how to control myself.  I learned that I had to love myself if I was going to be any good to anyone else.

I learned that it is possible to mentally separate the addict from their disease.  I’ve learned it’s possible to love the addict while hating what the disease is doing to our family.

This is in no way saying that the one who loves an addict is responsible for the health of the family.  It really does take two to make a relationship work.  But, if the co-dependent is able to find help, it does make the relationship ever so slightly better, even if just for the co-dependent (and any children involved).

If you’re struggling with someone else’s disease, I would urge you to check this out.  And go more than once.  It took twice for me to get it, and I was one of the lucky ones.  The first time, the only thing I took home from it was that yes, my husband, was indeed an alcoholic.  The second time, I knew it was a place where I could find support, assistance, and education.

Today, I am angry.  I’m not angry at either of my friends, because I know they’re doing the best they can with what they’re facing.  I am angry at the disease.

Today, it’s nice to know that I’m powerless over it – over all of it.  It releases me from the need to try to fix it.  It just is.  Today, I can be happy that I’m not personally dealing with that disease in my home.

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