What's going on? Why is it important to the family members to begin to truely understand that their loved one is caught in a disease process? It is important for family members to learn that the addict has no control over what is going on with him/her and that this condition is a brain disease that the addict can't simply decide not to have. It isn't personal, even though it effects those close to the addict. Addiction is a brain disease that alters the way addicts think and feel about their world and those in their world.
Why is addiction a brain disease? Because it changes the way the brain functions. The part on the brain that is most effected by addiction is the part of the brain that controls our drive for survival. With addiction the brain is fooled by the drugs and the addict begins to think that their drug of choice is needed for their own emotional survival. They start to believe that their drug of choice is what makes life worth living. The disease of addiction replaces the normal types of experiences such as positive relationships with families, jobs, physical activity, good nutrition as markers of wellbeing with the ability to access and use their drug of choice. It is not personal. the goal of every addict is to use their drug of choice successfully. They can never succeed at this and their struggle to accomplish this results in the creation of a tremendous level of chaos for both themselves and their loved ones.
As the family members begin to see addiction as a disease process that neither they nor the addict have any control over they can begin to learn and implement the three C's. The three C's for family members are: They didn't Cause it, They can't Control it, and they can't Cure it.
How does an addict get help if they can't control their disease process? The addicts best friend is pain. It is very important for people with the disease of addiction to be allowed to feel the consequences of their addiction. Of course many times family members make every effort to shield the addict from the consequences of their addiction. All this does is create a situation where the family members feel the pain that the addict should be feeling. The addict needs the painful experience to know they have a problem.