Poles apart

Poles apart

One of the most traumatic experiences anyone can go through is watching helplessly as a loved one plunges deeper and deeper into addiction.

The emotions are intense ranging from anger and resentment to fear and feeling that you are somehow to blame for the situation.

And this, before you step outside the front door and face the attitudes of others who think alcohol and drug problems are self inflicted. Prejudice and ignorance on top of the personal and emotional trauma can be overwhelming.

So what should you do, how do you approach the situation? It’s a dilemma. Should you confront the individual or is there a danger that by doing so, it could push them away further, possibly to more self destructive behaviour?

Or should you take an understanding approach? If you gently suggested that you had noticed a change in their behaviour, mood or appearance and asked if you could help in some way which may allow you to tackle the problem early.

“Should it be ‘tough love’ or kindness”?

The “tough love” approach is where drinking or using is forbidden at all costs. If the addict was desperate for their drug of choice or had already consumed some, you would tell them how selfish their actions were and how disappointed you were.

At the opposite end of the scale there is ‘understanding behaviour’. This is where you allow the individual to drink or use their drug of choice in a safe and controlled environment.

Despite causing anguish to their families, addicts will only stop when they are ready and have made the decision themselves”

The individual causing concern may not want to be helped; they might be in denial of their addictive behaviour. They may already be too dependent to physically stop without outside intervention. They will more than likely not want to listen to advice from their loved ones. They have to genuinely want to give up. Despite the pain caused to their loved ones. They won’t stop until they are and have made their own decision to do so.

Often, this decision is only reached when the addict hits their ‘rock bottom’. This varies greatly from person to person. For some, losing a driving licence, the break up of a relationship or the loss of a job can be enough to give them the strength they need to seek help. For others however, it can be finding themselves in prisons, psychiatric wards, hospitals or even on the streets. They may have no recollection of how they got there but realise that their behaviour has to change.

One example of the ‘understanding’ approach is a lady with an addiction to alcohol. She attends alcoholics anonymous (AA) meetings on a regular basis but still occasionally has the overwhelming urge to pick up a drink again. Rather than dismiss her request for alcohol, her husband goes out and buys it for her himself.

His reasoning for this some may see as ridiculous. To him however, he would rather his wife drinks at home where he can see she’s safe. If he refused her request, there would be a risk that she would drive to the pub or off licence, drink elsewhere and then drive drunk, risking her and other people’s lives.

On the other end of the scale, ‘tough love’ can be as extreme as locking the addict into their house or removing all cash, credit cards and car keys to prevent them from scoring/buying alcohol.

There are arguments for using either; however, the individual has to want more than anything to get and remain clean and sober. Neither will ultimately lead to sobriety unless the individual concerned wants to recover.

Why do people become addicted? There are a number of reasons as every person is unique. Common reasons that can trigger an addiction are: Traumatic events occurring in their childhood, having a genetic disposition to become dependent on alcohol or drugs and frequently, social pressure to fit in with others. Many addicts just want to reach oblivion to numb the pain of their emotions and delay them having to deal with life.

Finding yourself in this situation worrying about a loved one can be an overwhelmingly frightening and lonely place. Not all of us have friends or family we can confide in. There is help available out there: ‘DAAT’ (The drug and alcohol action team) offer the following services: ‘support and counselling for the families, friends and colleagues of people who have a drug related problem’. ‘Parents against drug abuse’ provide support, advice and information for the parents and families of drug misusers’. Their 24 hr helpline number is 08457 023 867.

Every person with an addiction problem has an impact on as many as five others. This can devastate families. ‘Al Anon’ is a worldwide organisation for families of people with alcohol addiction. Often, the addicted relative attends ‘AA’ (alcoholic’s anonymous meetings.) ‘Al Anon’ has people with similar stories and experiences to share. It can be a tremendous relief to discover that you are not the only one with such problems. It is also a way of meeting others you can trust and confide in possibly helping each other through difficult times.

Sharing experiences and overcoming prejudice is essential for us to help people overcome their problems and turn their lives around. The ultimate goal for many must be seeing a loved one recover from their addiction. This journey however, will be a rollercoaster of emotions and challenges. The rewards though, could be great. Seeing a person you love substance free and back to their old selves is the ultimate reward.

Many concerned family members and friends become so caught up in helping their loved ones means they forget to look after themselves and end up feeling worthless, depressed and disillusioned. It is after all a lonely uphill battle and if you do not have anyone you can confide in, it is a huge burden to carry alone. It is likely that you will feel guilty, ashamed and frustrated. You may not feel you can trust anyone in case they judge you. You may feel that you are breaking your loved one’s trust and could jeopardise your relationship as a consequence. Your mental and physical health could be at risk.

The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Many other families and friends of addicts are suffering in silence too. It is of the utmost importance that you seek help and advice as soon as possible. No one should have to shoulder such a burden alone. There is help available out there. It is imperative that we challenge the stigma and ignorance surrounding addiction.

By Tara Carbery October © 2010


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Comments 42 comments

Poetic Fool 5 years ago

Tara, thanks for a great hub with lots of useful information. Personally, I've never had an addiction problem nor anyone in my immediate family. I was one of those that used to look down my nose a people with such problems as having caused it themselves.

Then I got married. My brother-in-law is an alcoholic. Three of his four children are hooked on drugs, one has overdosed twice and had to be resuscitated. The oldest has been to prison a couple of times as a result. The youngest is scared s***less to come near alcohol or drugs because of what it has done to his father, brother and sister. He is terrified of the genetic component and that he may be predisposed to addictive behaviors.

Some will say sure there is a genetic component but if you don't take that first drink or use that first time, you won't become an addict. That's true but life has a way of beating us down sometimes and we all weren't blessed with stable homes, good friends and adequate coping mechanisms. Marrying into a family with addiction problems has opened my eyes! Thanks for sharing such useful and critical information. You are doing good!

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 5 years ago from Cheshire, UK Author

Poetic Fool. Thank you for your kind comments. Conquering addiction is an uphill struggle. People often have no understanding because it's never affected their own lives. Sooner or later though, most people will know someone suffering from an addiction. It's then they begin to see the reality and feel the pain of the addicted persons family or friends. Thanks again for reading and commenting. Take care.

leni sands profile image

leni sands 5 years ago from UK

Great hub, really interesting and useful information. Thanks for sharing.

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 5 years ago from Cheshire, UK Author

Thanks for reading leni.

Erin Boggs1 profile image

Erin Boggs1 5 years ago from Western Maryland

Your hubs really do touch the hearts of your readers and they make us aware of issues that we as a society might have been ignoring due to the fact that we are not sure how to approach them. I hope that through your hubs that we will be able to start to understand and be able to help others through their battles.

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 5 years ago from Cheshire, UK Author

Thank you Erin. I agree that we choose to ignore issues like this because we don't know how to deal with it. Much easier to pretend it isn't happening. Out of sight out of mind etc.

proudmamma profile image

proudmamma 5 years ago

Most people do ignore the issues of addicts and their families. They usually take the high road, because they feel it can't happen to them or their family. Addiction is more prevalent than anyone realizes.

It destroys lives and families. One part of your hub that stood out with me was there are others 'suffering in silence too'. I enjoyed your hub.

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 5 years ago from Cheshire, UK Author

Thanks proudmamma. It is chilling to think that others are suffering as I write. I think it's high time that addiction was viewed as an illness not a lifestyle choice.

kootheancheah profile image

kootheancheah 5 years ago from Penang, Malaysia


Your hub reminds me of Amy Winehouse who died recently after struggling for years with alcohol addiction. Ironically, her death was said to be caused by her own attempt to go cold turkey rather than to cut down her alcohol intake slowly as advised by the doctors. It's sad.

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 5 years ago from Cheshire, UK Author

Thanks for reading and commenting Kootheancheah. I felt desperately sorry for Amy Winehouse, particularly as she was trying to conquer her addiction. People automatically judged her as 'a desperate junkie' who wanted to be 'off her face' day in day out. The reality was that she didn't want to be like that. She wanted a chance of a normal life. Sadly, she never got the opportunity to give it a try.

epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

....from your brave and courageous profile you sound like a survivor yourself so it's only natural that you share your empathy and compassion with others less fortunate or worse off than you - you are a person to be admired and through your words here and in your other hubs I read someone who communicates very well with honesty and sincerity and Hubpages, as you know, is a writer's forum which really does make the world a much smaller place. Thank you for dropping by my hubspace too - that really made my morning here as I sip my first cup of coffee at lake erie time 10:05am ontario canada

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 5 years ago from Cheshire, UK Author

epigramman you're making me blush!!! What lovely things to say. Thanks for taking the time to read my hubs.

Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

Like Epi I too read your profile, you should be so proud of yourself for beating your addiction and are now writing about your experiences here to help others through these times.

I have never known anyone with an addiction apart from smoking. But I have met women who suffered violence because of their partners alchohol addictions. There are so many lives affected by one persons addiction.

A hub well worth reading and voting up

Keep it up

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 5 years ago from Cheshire, UK Author

Thank you so much Rosemary50. I'm blown away by your conmments and kind words. I really wasn't sure what sort of response I would get from people. I'm so pleased I gave it a try. If it helps others then I've achieved my objective. Thanks again.

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

Nicely written-voted up and useful for the helpful information.

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 5 years ago from Cheshire, UK Author

Thanks Denise.

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

Excellent hub! Addiction has touched my life in many ways. You may be interested in reading some of my work. The person who I was in a relationship with for 8 years was addicted to crack. It ended in suicide and is still devastating to me. Also, just a thought, your title does not tell the reader what this piece is about. I think it should be changed to attract more readers who really need to hear this information. Great work!


MisguidedGhost16 profile image

MisguidedGhost16 5 years ago from Queens, New York

I found this to be extremely informative. It is interesting to see your perspective, and to learn more about addiction in general. This was helpful in ways more than you know, I thank you.

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 5 years ago from Cheshire, UK Author

Thanks! I'm glad I can be of help! Sharyn, good advice about changing my title. That makes sense. 'Poles apart' may not be obvious enough. Sorry that you went through such a devestating time. I'm looking forward to reading through your work. MisguidedGhost16, Thanks and nice to hear from you again.

Sam Elutilo profile image

Sam Elutilo 4 years ago from Wallington, United Kingdom

A thought provoking hub. Thanks for sharing.

teachertalking1 profile image

teachertalking1 4 years ago

Thanks for sharing your insight into drug and alcohol addiction. It is so true about not understanding addiction until you've had an experience either personally or with someone you love. Great hub!

crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 4 years ago from Washington MI

This is a really thought provoking and informative hub. I have my issues with addiction as well as having bipolar. Your questions to ponder are thoughtful and useful. Getting involved with someone else's addiction is always a touchy and intimate affair. Enjoyed this article a great deal. You have some really well written hubs, I hope to read more.

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK Author

Thank you for your kind words Sam, Teacher and Crazy.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

You are so right! We are never alone unless we choose to be. Well done and right on with your assessment of a damaging and potentially fatal disease.

maryhoneybee profile image

maryhoneybee 4 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

As the daughter of an alcoholic, I generally tend to stay away from the subject--it's too painful and brings back so many horrid memories. But this hub, and readers' comments on it, I found very helpful and strengthening. My mother has been in jail more times than I can count, as well as the hospital (including the psychiatric ward); she's lost jobs, been homeless--pretty much everything you could think of, and still it doesn't seem as though she's hit her "rock bottom." But, she's doing better than she has in the past, and I believe she will recover. Anyway, thank you for the hub. =)

Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 4 years ago from Great Britain

Fabulous hub. A subject that is so close to my heart , it still hurts after many, many years.

I don´t think anyone can really understand this kind of problem unless they´ve ´been there.´

Well written as always.

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

Great article! Well-done! I have never been a believer in tough love - Love is not tough. Love is patient, love is kind . . . etc. I also do NOT subscribe to the philosophy one has to be cruel to be kind. An addict is suffering already from within and as you say does not get better until he/she is ready to. To add suffering from without is cruel to me. I say listening and understanding goes further in helping someone than all the psycho babble I hear the "EXPERTS" give about tough love, which is an oxymoron anyway.

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK Author

Bill, Mary, Dim and Suzette, thank you so much for commenting.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 years ago from Central Florida

Peanut, firstly, thank you for your follow. I suspect you've read some of my comments where I've exposed myself, that led you to do so.

People, especially family, don't understand the mind of an addict, because they flat out don't want to. They judge and bury their heads in the sand, because this is not what they taught their children.

And right the are; they did not (at least not in my case) teach or present behavior leading to addiction.

I had a strong upbringing, so strong that when I left home I busted out. I did everything I wasn't supposed to do and that led to my drug addiction. I put myself there. Not my parents. Not a bad upbringing, because that was truly not the case. I put myself there!

When I was out of control with my use, my soul and what I'd been taught screamed to me, "look what you're doing to yourself! Look, really look!". I did. I was honest with myself and admitted I'd dug this hole. Me. No one else. I grabbed ahold of the strength with which I've been blessed, and I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and climbed out of the hole I'd dug.

Without going into alot of detail, I've been drug free since 1987. I'll never go back there. I am proud to say that I had the inner strength to free myself of my addiction without going to rehab. I rehabilitated myself. By myself. I'm pretty damned proud of that!

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

bravewarrior: Congratulations and you are very strong-willed. Not everyone could do what you have done. You should be very proud of yourself and you are a brave warrior!

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 years ago from Central Florida

:-) :-)!

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK Author

Brilliant stuff! It's so lovely to hear inspiring stories such as yours Brave warrior. I'm really struggling at the moment. Everywhere around me there are people drinking alcohol. I find it very hard to be around it all. I hope I have the inner strength you had to beat this overwhelming addiction. I'm 40 next Friday and will be a month sober on my birthday. They do say that life begins at 40!!!

Suzette, lovely to hear from you and thanks for commenting. Hubpages really helps you feel that you're not on your own.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 years ago from Central Florida

Happy Birthday Peanut! My 40's were awesome. You may have to do what I did and stay away from people who tempt you. I totally moved, which probably doesn't make sense in your situation.

Read some of billybuc's hubs. He's been sober for six or so years now. He's very inspirational and very strong. He is also very willing to give encouragement and guidance. He's awesome. I would imagine it's harder to overcome alcohol addiction, because it's socially acceptable and legal to partake! Be strong peanut, and if you don't already follow billybuc, you really should. You won't regret it!

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK Author

Thanks for your advice brave warrior. Funny that you should mention Billybuc. I have been proud to follow him for some time. I am emailing him most days telling him how I feel. He's a real gentleman and a true friend. He's given me his number to to call him whenever I need to. It restores your faith in the world when people genuinely want to help and see you happy and well.

I was going to move house initially when it all got too much but in the end I couldn't leave my friends. The true ones I'm blessed to have who've been there for me through all the bad times.

Thanks for the birthday wishes. I intend to enjoy my 40's even though it still scares me to even say it!

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 years ago from Central Florida

Peanut, grab hold of Bill. You really need his wisdom and strength right now. I'm here for you too, whenever you need to lean on someone else while you gain your strength. I mean it! Email me whenever you feel. I'll even give you my cell number, so we can talk.

Don't be afraid of your 40's, sweetie. I'm 55 and going thru strifes of my own, but that's because I'm trying late in life to regain the creative position I had in the 80's. I blew it all up my nose and am still paying for it. I'll tell you what, tho: at this latter time of my life, I'll be damned if I don't do everything I can to achieve my dream of once again writing for a living!

Hang in there, kiddo. You have a mountain of strength willing to help you thru. Open up and let us in!

ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

I agree with you that addicts will only stop when THEY want to, no matter how much you prod them. Our words only come off as whiney if they don't really get the message. I hope your hub helps others and I am pleased with the number of comments and reads you are gettting. I vote up and will share too.

crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 4 years ago from Washington MI

Touching and kindly written hub. It is a horrible experience to go through and a tougher road to follow if you have to make the decision between the POLES. It is never easy to decide how you can help someone addicted. Thank you for bringing this out in the open.

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Having become quite involved with not one, but 2 addicts who mean very much to me........I have been educated and exposed to the worst of it. I am always ready to help, with love and compassion, but am cautious to steer clear of co-dependency. It's a touch path to walk, but we cannot turn our back completely in those we love........UP++

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK Author

First of all, please accept my apologies for not responding sooner. Brave, I'd love your number and will definitely send you an email.

Christy, Thank you. So lovely of you to share!

Crazy and fpherj, Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment.

Lady_E profile image

Lady_E 4 years ago from London, UK

Very touching to read. I personally think 99% of addictions have an underlying reason. Something painful might have triggered and it's important to get to that, deal with it and then help people get on with their lives gradually. Hiding the alcohol or taking the money away from them to buy it, won't help.

I like this statement you wrote: "the individual has to want more than anything to get and remain clean and sober. Neither will ultimately lead to sobriety unless the individual concerned wants to recover." ~ That's the most important step.

I hope your Hub helps many. I know it will. :-)

Hollie Thomas profile image

Hollie Thomas 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Personally, I think the tough love approach is completely counter productive. It centres on the feelings of the person offering the tough love, how they feel, what they want. Any attempts that an addict makes to recover because of the tough love approach are destined to fail, because the addict is attempting recovery for the wrong reasons, they have to do it for themselves and no-one else. Also, addicts have often put the needs of others before that of their own, sometimes leading to the problems in the first place.

Getting clean is one thing, staying clean is something entirely different. There are always reasons why people use/drink, addressing those reasons/issues, when the person is ready and truly wants change, is the key. IMHO.

Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK Author

Hollie, I agree with you. I found AA very judgemental full of people 'talking down to you' and telling you it was 'their way or the high way'. Bleurrghhh! Too many patronising cliches for my liking! It was drummed into you that you all had to get sober by staying away from wet places (why can't they just say pubs?) and changing your whole circle of friends. The thing is we are all different and different things work for different people. AA was a huge advocate of 'tough love' which I feel was really centred on the people telling you off to make themselves feel superior!

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