Like heart disease or diabetes, addiction is a disease

by Bill Maher

Addiction is a disease that can fracture a family

It’s mind-bogging to me that families often try to treat the medical disease of addiction at home. Home made works for pies but it’s not an ideal approach when it comes to treating a complex disease process.

If your teenager broke his arm, would you set the bone at the kitchen table? If he had an asthma attack, would you lecture him about getting his act together?

Of course not.

Still, families grapple with addiction at home, in secret, by themselves despite not knowing what to do for two reasons.

First, addiction can look an awful lot like bad behavior, especially at the outset. And second, parents feel embarrassed that addiction has found its way into their family. There is a lot of shame as it relates to this disease because parents feel as if they have failed.

In my thirty years as an interventionist, I’ve come to understand that addiction is one of the most complicated medical diseases to date. Few addicts recover on their own and when they do, the hidden components of the disease have often gone untreated. Incomplete treatment leaves the entire family vulnerable to relapse and can fracture families which is counterproductive to your loved one finding and remaining in recovery.

Addiction treatment is never as straightforward as, say, cutting out a tumor or setting a broken bone. This disease is confusing and chaotic. The manipulative behavior and the stealing feels like such a personal assault when in fact, it’s part of the disease process and there is an appropriate way to react to these behaviors that is not what you’d think.

In the beginning, we pull out our parenting tools and crack down with strict limits and consequences which is not effective for kids with addiction. Our intentions are good but, as the disease progresses, families don’t have the tools to deal with it effectively on their own.

That’s why it’s important to seek help of a qualified addiction counselor, preferably one with experience in intervention so that you make educated decisions and utilize your funds in the best way possible. Sure, I’m biased since that’s what I do.

But consider this. While a specialist costs money, just like a doctor costs money, they can direct your loved one to the best treatment for that individual and also save you money in the end–money that may have been wasted on the wrong treatment option for your child.

At the very least, find support for yourself.

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Bill Maher

Bill Maher CIP, CADC, ACI, BRI II is a person in long term recovery and a Certified Intervention Professional in Richmond, Virginia and currently writing a book on the subject of addiction and intervention.

One thought on “Like heart disease or diabetes, addiction is a disease”

  1. Excellent article! I especially like the point you make about early addiction looking like bad behavior. Even with my many years in Al Anon, I initially thought my son was just rebellious when he started drinking and abusing drugs. You are absolutely right about getting help for the family being very important.

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