+ "They Could Stop On Their Own If They Really Wanted to" - Is that True? - BALM

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“They Could Stop On Their Own If They Really Wanted to” – Is that True?

BALM | February 19, 2017


Recently, an addiction professional participating on the Daily BALM shared that her own parents believe she is wasting her time working with addicts since addicts could choose to stop if they really wanted to, while people with ‘real’ medical issues need help and cannot help themselves the way addicts can. This attitude, that those who struggle with substance use disorder don’t deserve medical attention or clinical help, still influences many educated people and confuses family members who are often told to abandon their loved ones rather than work with them to get them help when the road is less than a straight one….

Often, it’s as if we hold these two ideas in our heads and they play havoc with our brains:

  • It’s their choice to use and they could stop if they really wanted to.
  • Once doing it, they can’t stop without help.

So which is it?

Is it their choice? Is your loved one just an ornery person who insists on doing something he or she could stop at will but chooses not to, even though the behavior is alienating family and friends, destroying school or work, endangering those they love and everyone on the road?

Or, is your loved one caught up in something that they have lost the choice to stop doing? Are they filled with shame and guilt, but no matter how many apologies they give or promises they make, they repeatedly find themselves using and behaving in ways that hurt themselves, their loved ones and the relationships they cherish when sober?

If it is all their fault and they could stop if they wanted to, then, we can turn our backs and let them work it out on their own. After all, they are just being difficult….

But if, as the research shows, substance use disorder has hijacked their brain (learn more in John Meredith’s talk on ‘Addiction and the Brain in Principle One of the Daily BALM), we are dealing with a completely different situation.

Substance use disorder occurs on a continuum. Not everyone’s lack of choice is equal. Some are still in the experimental stage and others are well beyond the point of being able to turn back without outside help.

Regardless of where your loved one is on the continuum, you have a role to play as a family member of someone struggling with substances or other addictive behaviors.

The family is always contributing to making the situation better or worse and it all starts with attitude.

This week’s principle provides the overview for the entire 12 Principles of BALM, in that it lays the groundwork for how you can learn to contribute to your loved one’s potential recovery rather than to their addiction.

Study Principle One. Come to the talk this Wednesday evening when one of our esteemed treatment professionals, Hai Nguyen Clinical Director of Muse Treatment Center, will talk about the important role the family plays.

To Be A Loving Mirror, it is important to understand your role and what it takes to make things better for yourself and your family while giving your loved one their BEST chance of recovery.

See you on Wednesday evening!



Be A Loving Mirror!

Beverly A. Buncher, MA, PCC,  CTPC

Family Recovery Coach/CEO

Family Recovery Resources, LLC



786 859 4050