Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Patricia Sullivan MD MPH on 6/23/2021
Susana Khai (Spiegel) 6/23/2021
Talking to Someone About Addiction When They Don’t Understand…
2018 reports state that more than 53 million people in the United States had dealt with some drug abuse. Illicit drug abuse is seen and heard every day in movies and popular music, and heavy alcohol use parades along in television commercials and online. Though it sometimes seems as though everybody knows somebody who has had a drug or alcohol addiction, talking about the addiction that you are experiencing can be an extremely daunting task. There can be issues of shame and guilt associated with substance abuse for people battling addiction that usually hinder these necessary conversations with friends, family, or potential romantic partners. If you are honest with the people in your life about your addiction and abuse, you will be more likely to find or maintain your sobriety. We can help you learn how to talk to someone about addiction and find reliable treatment in your area. Please call 1(888)906-0952 for more information on treatment options.
What is Substance Abuse or Addiction?
In order to ensure that we’re on the same level, let’s go over the characteristics of addiction. Some believe that addiction is a choice made by bad people. Science says, that while at first it was a choice to pick up (and often a choice that’s made at a time when decision-making skills are not in the best state), addiction is a disease that can quickly remove choice.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information defines substance addiction as “a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by a recurring desire to continue taking the drug despite harmful consequences.” Though addiction to almost anything from video games, gambling, sex, and more can occur, most addictions associate with chemical substances and alcohol. Addiction causes changes in the brain that make it difficult to resist repeated drug abuse, making relapse a part of the addiction and recovery process. Due to this permanent modification to cerebral structures, the risk of relapse remains high even years after drug abuse stops. Substance use disorder is a chronic drug abuse condition that can develop after heavy alcohol or drug abuse over time.
Addiction Statistics in the U.S.2018 reports show that more than 19% of people over 11 in the United States had used an illicit substance last year. After a few years of a slight decline in illegal drug abuse, the number of cases of substance abuse disorder is back on the rise.
Recent statistics show:
- 4.9 million new alcohol users, 3.1 million new marijuana users, and 1.9 million new prescription pain reliever misusers.
- Over 20 million people over the age of 11 had a substance use disorder.
- 14.8 million people over the age of 11 had an alcohol use disorder.
- 4.4 million people over the age of 11 had a marijuana use disorder.
- 2 million people over the age of 11 had an opioid use disorder, including 1.7 million prescription pain reliever use disorder and .5 million a heroin use disorder
A Combo of Risk Factors for Addiction
Addiction strikes across all social and cultural boundaries. Things like age, race, sex and financial status alone cannot be relied upon to determine whether or not a substance abuse problem will occur. However, the presence of two or more contributing factors may influence the likelihood that a person will develop an addiction. Risk factors include genetics, age that the drug use began, and environment. Genetics determines a person’s race, sex, personality, risk for physical and mental illness, and more; all of these factors make up about 50% of an individual’s possibility for addiction. Additionally, environmental issues such as parental influence, pressure from friends, the presence of physical or sexual abuse, financial status, and childhood exposure to alcohol or drug abuse can all affect the chances of the development of alcohol or drug addiction.
How Addiction Produces Feelings of Intense Shame: Shame Resilience Theory
The feeling of shame is commonly thought of as a purely negative emotion that one sometimes experiences when doing something bad. But research suggests that shame greatly influences an array of personal issues and mental health conditions. Shame Resilience Theory defines shame as a severe emotional pain caused by the belief that you are damaged and thereby unfit or undeserving of love and understanding. Study participants described shame as feeling extremely overwhelming, unbearable, isolationist, and that they felt “small”. SRT posits that the reason we experience these feelings is the inherent need to reach out for empathy from other people. Shame makes us feel alone, helpless, and suffocated, but if we can find someone to speak our shame to, compassion can help us feel united, capable, and liberated.
The Role of Shame in Everyday Life
Shame Resilience Theory compares who you think you should be to who you think you are. This social construct of what people think they should have achieved or how they should be behaving at a certain time in life exists due to many different outside forces that one cannot truly control. SRT states that any of the following people and things can contribute to how an individual negatively or positively sees themselves and the way that they are performing in life:
- Family, friends, mentors, and partners.
- Teachers, churches, doctors, the community, jobs.
- Media, TV, Music, Literature, Movies, the Internet.
- Marketing and advertising.
Failing to adhere to realistic or perceived social expectations from these sources can quickly compound feelings of shame. When you add a negative social issue like substance or alcohol addiction into the cycle of expectation and shame, the effects can further complicate a person’s ability to learn how to talk about addiction.
Using Shame for a Positive Purpose
The ability to speak shame to others and develop shame resilience is the ultimate goal of SRT. Talking about a shameful, unspeakable subject freely can free you from the bonds of powerlessness and isolation. An article by Michigan State University states that “Developing shame resilience is an important antidote to the ongoing ways that shame is used as a weapon in an attempt to keep people in their place by making them feel unworthy of connection, love, and belonging.” The power and secrecy of negative shame can keep people locked in place, mentally and physically. It’s important for users who communicate with someone about addiction to create a sense of shame resilience to talk about and recover from their addiction effectively.
How to Talk About Addiction
Though both mental health disorders and drug addiction categorize as chronic health conditions, the stigma around drug abuse can be much more judgemental. Communities tend to see drug addiction as a personality flaw rather than a physical illness that someone may be battling, like cancer. But more modern ideas about drug addiction are beginning to reshape how people see substance users since almost everyone has a loved one or friend who has struggled with drug use. For example, whereas talk of antidepressants used to be taboo as little as a few decades ago, now mental health discussions and references can be found in movies, music, books, and online. One of the keys to overcoming addiction is being able to freely express the experiences and ideas that led you down the path of drug use.
How to Overcome Shame and Speak Up If You’re Still Using
Talking about addiction is a courageous step toward facing your drug abuse problems. Keeping addiction a secret will further deepen its hold on you. Speaking about your fight with drug or alcohol abuse with friends and family will help strengthen your resolve to stay sober. When you choose to tell someone about your substance abuse, pick a dependable family or church member or a reliable friend rather than a person that also uses drugs or alcohol. Try not to be high or under the influence of any substances when you tell them about your abuse. Be direct and tell your trusted source that you are struggling with addiction alone and have not been able to stop. Express your desire to end the addiction cycle, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
How to Speak Shame If You’re Sober
One unexpected hurdle in continuing the good fight against addiction is the pressure to explain your sobriety to those you do not know well. Though communicating with someone about addiction can seem like a scary prospect, the result of talking about addiction is quite beneficial. Learning how to speak to someone about addiction and shame can help you to:
Become familiar with and figure out how to positively deal with shame triggers.
Gain essential knowledge about how shame developed in your life.
Understand why connecting with others is crucial to recovery.
In casual social situations, it is unnecessary to disclose the specifics of your addiction, and you should never agree to drink to take drugs to dodge the conversation. It can help to have a set of truthful, low-key, and practiced phrases that convey your commitment to sobriety in a self-assured way. Be confident and state that alcohol or drug use does not make you feel how it makes others feel or that you do not take substances for health reasons. Do not let anyone make you feel as though you need to explain yourself any further than this.
Starting the Journey to Overcome Addiction
Being open and honest about your drug or alcohol addiction is the beginning of the journey of recovering from it. After recognizing and talking about addiction and the harm it actively causes yourself and others, the next step is to get drug and alcohol rehab treatment. Treatment can help you to overcome your abuse and to live a better, more hopeful life. Always make sure to properly research a rehab facility to find one that’s right for you. It’s also important to learn about the types of treatment options available to you.
Talk About the Facility That Would Be Best For You
Many critical factors should come into play when choosing a drug and alcohol rehab facility. Always research a center’s accreditation, location, history, types of treatment, other patient recommendations, and how long you or a loved one will stay. Depending on the type of addiction you have, some centers may require complete inpatient stays while others may treat you every week. Some facilities promote the use of recovery medications such as methadone, but others still use talk therapy as the basis of their treatment plan. There are many different types of rehab centers and numerous distinctive care philosophies within this array of facilities. Quality care can be affected by these many factors, so it is essential to learn about all treatment options and features available to you and your family.
How Can Treatment Help Me Overcome Addiction?
Rehabilitation treatment is often proven to be the best approach to drug and alcohol addiction. Modern-day addiction treatment involves various therapy and medication choices designed to aid in the battle against substance abuse. Types of Rehab treatment include:
Family Therapy and Counseling: As the name implies, this type of treatment seeks the involvement of a user’s family to recognize and address abuse patterns and repair broken familial bonds.
Contingency Management: Rewards and incentives come with this type of rehab, along with talk therapy.
Cognitive-behavioral Therapy: This treatment actively changes unhealthy thinking and behavior decisions in the brain by applying coping strategies and actions when addictive thoughts begin to present themselves.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy: With this treatment, patients rediscover their main motivations to stay clean and sober such as children, a spouse, or a job, and restrengthen inner commitments to these people within themselves.
Talking About Addiction is Just the Beginning
Learning how to talk to someone about addiction can be a difficult transition from the shame and darkness of drug or alcohol abuse. Speaking your guilt aloud will be a painful process, but you can do it with the right tools. Tell the people in your world about your struggles and know that it will get better. We can help you to address the addictions in your life and reclaim your right to be understood. Please call the number below today to begin your journey.
About the Author
Dani Horn is an Arizona native and graduate of Glendale Community College. Her work has appeared in Raising Arizona Kids magazine and The Arts Beacon digital journal and she has worked on numerous Valley short film projects and music video shoots. She can currently be found writing for A Better Way Recovery Services, hanging with her 2 fantastic kids, or taking photos of her outfits for Instagram. Through ABTRS, she hopes to help others start the journey to sobriety that she herself began over a year and a half ago.
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Ultimately, choosing to get treatment may be more important than the approach used, as long as the approach avoids heavy confrontation and incorporates empathy, motivational support and a focus on changing drinking behavior. Before attempting to detox from alcohol in your home and alone, please talk to our addiction experts at the Oklahoma Addiction Treatment Network first. We will help you safely detox and offer resources on rehab. Call 405-583-4309 today.
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