From the series: Tidbits About Addiction and Recovery by Serenity Lane’s director of outpatient services, Nate Mart MBA, NCAC II, CADC III
I was on vacation last week and had the opportunity to spend time with my kids. It was fun, exhausting, and needless to say, I’m glad to be home. Spending more time meant I was able to witness more behaviors than usual. My daughter, who is two, kept saying things were “mine.” Everytime my son, who is four, had something in his hand, she would say “mine.” I noticed it before going on vacation but noticed it even more on this trip.
I often share about addicts and alcoholics having an intense relationship with their drug of choice. A bond so strong it takes the place of actual relationships. I find it interesting the struggle addicts have in letting go of their substances. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand it, but still, it’s an interesting phenomenon. Why would a person return to something which has been so destructive? Why would they, even after having the knowledge of recovery, return to use?
When they enter treatment and continue to have struggles, in a way they’re telling everyone their addiction is “mine,” and they alone can deal with it. Similar to what my daughter does, she insists if we just give it to her, everything will be fine. Those chemicals, no matter if we understand it or not, provide them comfort and peace. It may not be the peace you and I think of, but it’s their peace and who’s to tell them their feelings are wrong?
I talk about the powerful bond of addiction with high school students all the time. Spouses of addicts often describe this relationship similarly to having an affair. Addicts and alcoholics bond with substances for years, sometimes decades, and it’s this bond that makes it difficult to give up. Over the course of their lives, at some point, they discovered these substances worked for them. It provided them with things they couldn’t get in their natural environment. If an addict’s irrational thoughts are telling them this substance is “helping,” you can understand why it’s so difficult to give up. Again, even if we don’t get it, it’s very real for them.
My daughter doesn’t need most of the things she says are hers, just as the addict doesn’t need substances. However, at that moment, my daughter thoroughly believes it’s hers just as the user thoroughly believes drugs and alcohol are crucial for survival. And I don’t mean life or death survival, although that is the case in some instances, I mean just getting through the day, just being able to work, or function normally. The struggle comes in helping the addict realize they can survive without it, which is the same struggle I have with my daughter.
Who would’ve imagined the behavior of kids would line up so well with the behavior of addicts?