It’s possible for some people to experiment with drugs and alcohol without becoming reliant on these substances. However, circumstances are vastly different for those who are vulnerable to developing an addiction. Once the pervasive pull of a substance use disorder takes over your life, you lose the ability to walk away.
Once you begin working toward your recovery, you’ll need to learn how to explain addiction to a non-addict. A casual user who has no issues with drinking or using drugs in moderation might make an offhand comment like “Come on, one won’t hurt,” without realizing how harmful that attitude might be to a sober person. Here are some steps to take when you need to describe the challenges of staying on a lifelong path to recovery.
1. Accept That Addiction Isn’t a Weakness
Conventional “wisdom” surrounding addiction stigmatizes it as a lack of morals or values. However, addiction is a chronic, progressive disease that can affect anyone, regardless of their beliefs or background. As with other chronic illnesses, there is no cure, but people with substance misuse disorders can learn healthy strategies to prevent the symptoms from impacting their well-being.
Many people – including some living with an active addiction – justify self-destructive behavior as a deficiency of willpower. Once you accept that you have a long-term illness instead of a failing, you can shift your mindset to doing whatever it takes to get and stay sober.
2. Educate Others About Addiction
Some non-addicts may not understand addiction as a disease because nobody has ever thoroughly described it that way. With their permission, explain that many health issues may not display outward symptoms, but that doesn’t make them any less genuine. Be as candid as you feel comfortable being. Most people would not attempt to minimize the severity of diabetes or cancer, and addiction requires the same empathetic response.
3. Advocate for Yourself
As with any other chronic disease, your symptoms might occasionally flare up. Even if you feel relatively stable in recovery, work- or family-related stress can threaten your progress. Other triggers might be situational – revolving around places or people that remind you of the “bad old days.”
At these times, you must stay attuned to your emotions and take additional steps to protect yourself. If you encounter any circumstances that might undermine your sobriety, it’s OK to walk away. Explain to others that you may need to abruptly excuse yourself from an event if you feel endangered in any way.
4. Accept That Not Everyone Will Understand
No matter how thoroughly you describe addiction as an illness requiring lifelong attention, you will still encounter non-addicts who don’t appreciate how many obstacles you have faced. You must be patient and have realistic expectations for what people can accept.
What matters most is that you know what you’ve achieved and what you need to keep making progress. Refuse to compromise your health and happiness to meet other people’s expectations. Surround yourself with compassionate people who offer you the love and support you deserve.
Rebuild Your Health and Wellness
New Found Life has helped people recover from the disease of addiction since 1993. We understand people with substance use disorders need professional treatment to recover their well-being and learn to manage their symptoms. If you’re struggling with an untreated addiction or mental health disorder, we can help you. Reach out today to learn more.