There are few things that raise the heart to the throat quicker than being confronted with your loved one’s private suffering. Those hidden bottles you keep finding around the house. The quiet glazed-over eyes belying that he is, once again, high at dinner. But he won’t open up about what’s wrong. By keeping the stress close to themselves, addicts show that their pain is not your burden to bear.
Honey, it’s not an issue. I’m going to AA.
We’ve already talked about this.
Please get off my back.
Later that night, you find a new bottle tucked away in the back of the closet.
High Functioning Addicts
Denial is powerful. On the surface, every addict responds differently when their private use is “discovered” by a concerned loved one. Whether it’s anger, annoyance, defensiveness, or something else, each of these reactions are usually a mask for one primal emotion: fear.
They are scared of having their stress fix taken away. No matter how destructive it has become. Addicts are, by definition, reliant on their drug of choice to function; however, the degree of need is variable. Those with a high degree of function tend to develop a compelling case of denial.
No matter how well-formed this argument becomes over the years, it eludes a simple truth. Addiction is a crutch, not a cure.
Denial: The Illusion of Control
Unfortunately, the higher functioning a person is, the less likely they are to think they need help or even have a problem to begin with. Forget about admitting anything out loud. They won’t even acknowledge the problem internally.
This denial is not malicious. It’s a defense mechanism that allows addicts to maintain the illusion of control, and it’s very understandable. Serious issues elude quick solutions that are healthy. Think: stress at work, death in the family, a chronic mood disorder, healing from a serious injury. Such overwhelming problems require effective coping skills and/or professional help. When these solutions are not readily available, substance abuse presents itself as a much simpler solution.
Don’t Be Manipulated
Cue the illusions.
This ground of discussion is well-trodden for many loved ones, and after a while, their addict’s illusion of control can even seem real.
Here’s why it’s not:
Raising the Bottom
There is a “rock bottom” stereotype in our culture that addicts are dysfunctional dropouts who have given up on life. No job, no school, no will to succeed or get better. But this is far from the case.
It is very normal for addicts to be fully functional, hold steady jobs, and even support their families. These factors do not preclude a substance abuse problem. More often than not, they actually function as a barrier to treatment. After all, does the guy who just got a promotion at work REALLY need to get help for his drinking problem?
The answer is yes. “Raising the bottom” is a common discussion point in early treatment. It’s what allows high functioning addicts to accept they have a problem.
Private Users Still Need Help
People actively suffering from addiction rarely seek help on their own. It’s usually spouses, parents, and other close loved ones who initiate their addict’s journey of recovery. Remember: if your loved one feels overwhelmed enough to keep their pain private, they’re going to need your help finding treatment.
Substance abuse is always a cry for help, even the person tries to keep it private. If you think your addicted loved one is ready, contact our admissions staff for detox: 855-737-7363