Finding out that someone you know or love has an addiction can change the way that you view them. You probably associate the word “addict” with a certain image. It might be of a sketchy-looking person who is thin, haggard, and would do anything to get their next fix. These images that come to mind were likely placed there by TV shows and movies that benefit from showing a stereotype of someone with substance use disorder (SUD). However, the person you know is not that stereotype, and it’s important that you see them for who they really are. 

Separating the Person and the Illness

The media often contributes to the stigma surrounding SUD through their stereotypical portrayals. When you buy into it, you are also perpetuating the stigma of addiction. By identifying or categorizing your loved one as an “addict,” you are damaging their self-esteem and willingness to recover. In addition, if you look at them with shame, disgust, and anger, they may start to look at themselves the same way. 

Despite what you might think, there are many real-world repercussions to treating your loved one as nothing more than their disease. Even if it isn’t your intention, it might discourage them from receiving treatment. This may be because they don’t think they deserve to get better. Alternatively, they may refuse help because they’re afraid of how they’ll be treated at the facility. If the person they love and care about willingly treats them as less-than-human, then they may fear that the staff at a rehab center might also as well. 

Changing How You View Addiction

This is why it is so crucial that family members work to separate the person they love from the illness of addiction. The internal work you do will result in kindness and acceptance in your behavior towards your loved one. Of course, this is easier said than done. One way to change how you view people with SUD is by first changing how you view addiction. Having SUD is not a choice that people make. It is an affliction of the body and mind and can be compared to many other mental and physical disorders. 

Your loved one may have made some bad decisions along the way that seem like they led to SUD, but those choices were likely symptoms of a problem that was already taking hold. Like many psychological conditions, SUD has a variety of risk factors including genetics, past trauma, and current environmental stressors. Developing an addiction may have been largely out of your loved one’s control. Moreover, you must recognize that they wouldn’t have chosen this path if they had had the choice.

Embracing the Person’s Humanity

By changing your attitude about the causes and nature of SUD, you can start to see that your loved one is more than the disease that afflicts them. Another important thing to keep in mind is that it is human nature to make mistakes. If you think back on your own life, you can probably identify periods of time when you went astray from the path you wanted to be on. Though it can be dangerous, it’s normal for people to stumble. Remember to have grace and empathy for the person living with SUD.

Another thing that makes us human is that we are drawn to each other, especially in our times of need. We don’t enjoy seeing our fellow humans suffer. If your loved one is struggling with SUD, it’s important that you not only embrace their humanity but your own as well. Love them for their flaws and mistakes, and be there for them when they need you. They may seem different than you remember, but they are still the same person that you’ve always known and loved. Moreover, our family recovery program at Family-Centered Services can help you shift your perspectives and rebuild a culture of trust and love in your family. 

Staying Accountable Through Recovery

Having a family that sees them as more than their addiction is a powerful tool for a person in recovery from SUD. However, it’s also important your loved one stays accountable through recovery in order to maintain their sobriety and wellness. This will help rebuild the trust within the family unit and make sure that your loved one takes on an active role in their recovery. In this way, accountability is beneficial to everyone. 

At Family-Centered Services, we’ve found that clients who are involved in a long-term accountability program increase their chances of success by up to 85%. We can help you make an individualized plan for your loved one that maximizes their chance for sustained wellness. This plan could include a variety of resources and techniques, from attending support groups to keeping a journal of daily habits. 

At Family-Centered Services, we believe that people with SUD are just that: People who are affected by substance abuse. We know it can be hard to move past the stigma that surrounds addiction. We want to help families like yours build healthy dynamics that support your loved one with SUD while still keeping them accountable. Through our Sober Accountability Program and Family Recovery Program, your family can create a new story of sustained future wellness. We’re based out of Washington state but have offices throughout the West Coast area and offer extensive telehealth options. To take the first step on your family’s healing journey, give us a call at (509) 991-5822