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Gail Oliver Cambridge | December 1, 2022

I have been reading up on addictions and found that there are two categories: physical and behavioral. The most common physical addictions are alcohol, tobacco, and illicit and prescription drugs. Behavioral addictions are those that lead us to lose control of our actions and become dependent on the pleasure we derived from them. Some of these addictions include food, sex, gambling, and shopping.

It's easy to fall into either category of addiction. A few months into the pandemic, I found myself having nightly wine sessions, a custom previously reserved for weekends. From conversations with others, I realized this had become a regular nocturnal event for many. During this time, there were others I knew who were spending countless hours online, well beyond what was normal for them. Fortunately, our actions did not turn into addictions triggered by an overwhelming high and subsequent craving that could have led any one of us down a difficult path. As we all know, no addition is easy to overcome.

However, if a loved one does get caught up and develops an unhealthy habit, what can we do to help? There are lots of resources that include medical treatment, therapeutic systems, and support options. But what if they resist?

Someone close to me had an alcohol use disorder. As I’m sure you are aware, constant alcohol abuse causes liver damage and other medical issues. It also has both immediate and long-term negative effects on the brain. My loved one was capable of rational thought when sober and listened to me and agreed with my suggestions for help. However, after alcohol consumption, the person who emerged was not the same and I often wondered who I was speaking to. There was no comprehension, no agreement, and lots of deflection.

My reactions had spanned the spectrum from annoyance, threats, pleas, sadness, patience, to acceptance. Time and again I had naively believed that if I explain the negative consequences of the addiction in just the right way, he will eventually get it and want to fix the problem—not quite! Promises had been broken after family interventions and there was continual resistance to treatment programs. The ill effects of the abuse on his physical and mental health and the psychological toll on the whole family were substantial.

I have since learned that people experiencing alcohol use disorder cannot just snap out of it as their brains are wired differently. What doesn’t help—judging and shaming. Let’s remember this as we gather to enjoy the Christmas season and the grace we would need if we were in a dark space.

Ultimately the choice to break any damaging cycle is up to the individual, and full recovery can take years. While not condoning the behavior, family members and friends must nevertheless continue to offer our care and support, show empathy, keep hope and love in our hearts, and intercede with the superpower pill—the blessings of prayer!


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