It is a tragic aspect of life that addiction can be a traumatic experience for both individuals who are addicted to substances and friends and family members of the addicted person. Anyone from any background can become addicted to drugs or alcohol; in recent years, addiction has affected everyone from successful entrepreneurs to famous entertainers.
But why do people become addicted to substances in the first place? What events can lead someone to this point in life? How can addiction be avoided?
The truth is that we still don’t fully understand why some people become addicted to substances while other people are able to walk away from drugs or alcohol. Generally, it is thought that there are a few key reasons why people become addicted to substances:
- Family or genetic history of addiction
- Faulty coping mechanisms
- Unresolved traumatic experiences
Firstly, it is important to realize that genetics can play a significant role in the development of an addiction to substances. Bearing this fact in mind, a person can evaluate their own likelihood of struggling with substance abuse if they are aware of their family’s history with addictive behaviors.
For example, a person whose mother or father struggled with addiction may be at risk of developing an addiction to substances themselves. Even if they do not strictly have a genetic predisposition to addictive behaviors, however, a person with an alcoholic family member may fall into similar patterns of substance abuse. After all, we learn many of our most important life skills from the people around us.
Secondly, it is important to realize that substance addiction can result from faulty coping mechanisms. The world presents many stressors to human beings: These can arise in the form of work commitments, relationship or family obligations, and financial responsibilities. Stressors encountered at school or work can severely affect a person’s mental state.
For many people, dealing successfully with problems in life is commonly referred to as coping. A person’s ability to cope with major stressors often results from emotionally processing such stressors in a healthy way. For example, a person whose pet has died might cope with the trauma of the event by thinking positively about their pet. They may remind themselves that their pet had a good life and that death is a part of existence. The event will still be traumatic for this person; however, difficult emotions will largely subside with time and with proper emotional processing.
Conversely, a person who lacks healthy coping skills may react to the death of a pet by avoiding any thoughts related to the trauma of the event. They may find such thoughts to be too painful to confront. Unfortunately, these unresolved thoughts and emotions may continue to affect the person for a long period of time. Traumatic memories may also result in controlling behaviors or bouts of severe anxiety as the person struggles to regain a sense of stability in life.
Severe trauma can also result in a condition called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A person with this disorder will often experience severe nightmares and flashbacks in the wake of a traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD can be destabilizing; the condition can affect anyone regardless of how strong they are.
When dealing with the fallout from such trauma, a person may seek relief in the abuse of substances such as alcohol or drugs. While these substances may provide short-term relief from traumatic memories or difficult emotions, they will often leave the person feeling worse in the long run. After enough time, the substances may also cause physical and mental dependence. This is what is known as addiction.
Addiction can carry with it serious consequences on a variety of different levels. In addition to causing career or school troubles, addiction can also severely impact personal relationships. Friends and family members will often live in a constant state of worry about the addicted individual.
In turn, these people may develop codependent behaviors in a bid to “protect” the person struggling with addiction. Family members and friends will often compromise their personal values in order to help the addicted individual avoid the consequences resulting from their actions.
Codependent individuals often feel guilt or shame about a loved one’s addictive behaviors. To mitigate these feelings, people struggling with codependence often sacrifice a part of themselves in a misguided attempt to change the addicted person’s thinking or behavioral patterns. Sadly, codependent behaviors do little to help the addicted person. Fortunately, the development of healthy coping mechanisms can help both people struggling with addiction issues and people struggling with issues related to codependency.
If you or someone you know is struggling with these issues, it is important to realize that there is hope for a brighter tomorrow. If you’re ready to make a change, get in touch with us today at 954-523-1167!