How to Handle Denial, Anger, Sadness and Depression
If someone you love is an addict, you know how emotionally volatile their substance abuse can make them. One minute they might be laughing and getting along with every one, and the next they’re shouting in fury or curled up on the ground crying.You may think that these are extreme examples, but scholarly research has shown the ways that various drugs affect addict’s brains and emotions. Cocaine specifically has been known to increase the level of anger in addicted users (Brookhaven National Laboratory).
But even beyond the emotions that addicts can display as a result of the drug and the way it impacts their life are what many will go through on the journey from drug addiction to rehab. Much like the grieving process, many addicts will begin with denial and go through anger, sadness, and depression before finally reaching something resembling equilibrium. Understanding what to expect and how and when it might manifest itself can go a long way towards you being able to help your loved one through this incredibly trying process (Addiction Counselor CE).
Drug Addiction to Rehab: Denial
This is almost always the first emotion to rear its head on the path from drug addiction to rehab. The simple fact is that most addicts aren’t willing to admit that they have a problem until they reach rock bottom, and some may not even be able to admit it then. When you confront an addict about their substance abuse in an attempt to convince them to seek help, you should expect them to deny it, and possibly become angry at the fact that you’re butting into their life and accusing them of something. It’s not easy to deal with a drug or alcohol addict in denial, but if you’re not willing or able to simply push them into treatment, you’re left with one of two options: appeal to their emotions or appeal to their logic.
If it’s going to be an emotional appeal, you need to talk to them about the way their actions make you feel. You’re betrayed, scared, ashamed, hurt, and so on. You can cite specific instances that made you feel this way, but it’s more about the emotions than the instances themselves. Logical appeals take the opposite approach. They’re flunking out of school or about to lose their job. They’ve been arrested repeatedly. Their friends have abandoned them. They have no money because they spend every cent getting high.
Drug Addiction to Rehab: Anger
What’s interesting about anger is that it tends to happen much earlier with drug addicts than it does for those grieving over some other kind of loss. Perhaps this is because addicts know that there is a “solution” that can end their grieving – repeat use of the drug to give their bodies what it craves. Whatever the reason, anger usually happens right after or even during the denial stage for addicts. When approaching them about seeking addiction treatment may result in anger and the blame will likely fall on you.
There’s little to do about the anger stage beyond trying to show understanding and waiting it out. Avoid arguing with them which will be counterproductive and will only fuel their angry feelings. It may even push them to abandon treatment and return to their abusive ways.
Drug Addiction to Rehab: Sadness and depression
Similar to the sense of loss we feel when someone dies, addicts experience sadness when their drug of choice has completely left their system and they know that they are never going to feel like that again unless they go back to using it. But they don’t want to do that, either, because they are also feeling sad about all of the horrible things they did to themselves and others while they were abusing their drug of choice. Some may feel that they can’t see a path forward for themselves because life doesn’t feel worth living if they can’t feel how they felt when using the drug, or because they’ve wrecked their lives so thoroughly that they really do have to start over, which can be sad and daunting.
The best thing that you can do for recovering addicts during these stages is to simply be there for them. They need your support and love, and they may appreciate it if you can find ways to distract them from their worries and get moving again by focusing on whatever small steps they are able to take in a positive direction. And sometimes they just need someone to be physically present while they go through whatever addiction or recovery they are dealing with and hold them accountable and safe. Now you understand the path from drug addiction to rehab.
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