Don’t Wait Until it’s Too Late
Harm reduction saves lives
I cannot stress enough how important detox and treatment are as first steps into abstinence or decreased use. When the people we care about are gripped by the beastly disease of out-of-control substance use, unless the toxic chemicals or alcohol are out of their system for a period of time, it will still affect their brain-body state. Many of our beloveds have mental health issues coexisting with substance use disorder (SUD). Unless they get clean and sober, no one knows what else is really going on. Supportive detox is usually essential for medical and emotional reasons. Withdrawal is hard, and physiological needs cry out. It’s tough to do without people who care and understand nearby. Current research shows medication assisted treatment (MAT) and medication supported recovery (MSR) not only help people get clean, they aid in preventing reoccurrence of use. Progressive and informed detoxes and treatment centers offer both MAT and MSR. After detox, the longest-term treatment affordable is crucial; 3 months or more, if possible, with aftercare. This is because the longer our person stays sober, the more their whole-being can recalibrate and heal, as they learn to cope with adversity without substances and lead more autonomous lives.
Read my friend Walter Wolf’s book The Right Rehab for more understanding, specific suggestions, and guidance. Be aware of your own need for help. As a parent, spouse, or friend, run toward getting educated and into self-awareness during the long-term process of supporting the person you care about who’s running like hell from meth.
“run toward getting educated and into self-awareness during the long-term process of supporting the person you care about who’s running like hell from meth”
If you can afford it, hire a boundaries coach or an interventionist for partnership and extra ideas. Timing can be crucial. Methamphetamines are extremely risky, having potentially fatal long-term effects with heart attacks and strokes in the mix. You’ve got to be ready for anything, without living in fear. Why? You’re facing a complex disorder.
Drug addiction: a choice, pleasure, stress, and craving problem
Substance use disorder (SUD) is a physiological disease with varying levels of whole-being dependency. A person’s body, thoughts, emotions, and soul are all serving a drug, which has primary control of them. They lack connections with others, and have lost themselves. It’s a pleasure problem, with dopamine gone awry. The very part of the brain which affects good choices is compromised. “Addiction is a compulsive reward prediction,” with dopamine surges gone awry. The unknowing dependent person has lost their sense of choice and lost control of their body, with an unconscious, continual survival-level demand for more of the substance that is doing them in. They lose desire for basic things that normally make anyone feel better: sleep, food, water, sex, and, instead, crave the dopamine hit from the drug. The cycle continues since the switch to use stays on; yet doses disappoint, because more of the substance is needed for the feel-good they seek.
Additionally, the people we care about have unwillingly lost their connection to a greater source: to God, to a sense of meaning, or both. Cravings are almost uncontrollable at times, especially for meth. Some say they are like having diarrhea; one feels they must get more of the drug. Hence, they steal, lie, or trade to obtain more of the substance. The obsession to overcome pain or despair by getting a dopamine hit through the drug keeps our loved one from remembering what their greater purpose is and far away from us. They forget what love is, or how they are connected to the divine or the universe. Instead, they’re trying to just get through the hours and days. Self-care, jobs, or school are no longer priorities.
Sure, genetic predisposition is a part of the cause, and so is initial age of use. The younger they are when they begin using, the more their undeveloped brains are affected and the harder it is to break away from drugs, establish new patterns, or change behaviors. It’s complicated, with anxiety and trauma often at the bottom of use, making it a circular problem that continues, often with multiple relapses. As complex as the causes are, there is not a one-way street into addiction, nor is there a one-size fits all approach out of it.
Meth users are beautiful people who want to feel better, and they want relationships. They’re humans, altered by substances and their mental health and hearts are suffering. They are people we love, and they need us.
What can we offer them, to help without trying to control?
Remedies instead of “tough love”
Presence, listening, and love are 3 good remedies for facing the effects of meth on people whom we care about. Self-awareness and self-love are our own inner antidotes. They lead us into smart choices for our own diligent self-care and bravery skill-building.
Don’t withdraw from the drug-dependent person you love. Engage with them in presence. Assert boundaries and limits with kindness. Feeling anger and even rage are normal, but I found that when I yelled, what they remembered was me yelling, not what I actually said. My sons have both been in detox followed by rehab several times. When I listened to them and spoke with them in firm compassion, I made headway. I became better at stating what I would and would not do as well.
Tough love can lead to death. Strong, unconditional love with assertive empathy can help them remember who they really are. When they are up and down or suffering, we learn to reset our nervous systems and be more even keeled. Offer empathy-in-action with conscious, “compassionate care” instead, so that loved ones eventually find solid ground, get clearer, and make better choices. Resilience is key in recovery, yet it takes time to cultivate, for them and us. Daily, committed practice in presence, listening and loving is brave and makes us more tender, strong, and capable.
Structure is the house that recovery lives in
Freedom unfolds for our recovering loved ones with structure in their days and nights. Making plans for coffee with clean friends. Going on hikes. Doing yoga with sober people. Playing board games. Having conscious conversations. Cultivating healthy night-time rituals. Invite them into full-on engagement; doing something soulfully satisfying with your family member or friend can counteract the pull of meth and other stimulants.
Learning to allow all our feelings and experience discomforts and overwhelm is vital for all of us. Not stuffing or avoiding big emotions is especially important for the impulsive, compulsive drug user.
We role model the structured practice of resetting through self-regulation.
When we can embrace our emotions and comfort ourselves from within, not using a substance to do so, we cultivate the ability to take other brave steps.
Those in recovery and we who care about them need practice and at listening to our internal guide — our wise, brave, loving inner essence. Structured, consistent meditations, yoga, and breathwork are proven resources leading into healing and connection. We connect daily to ourselves and to something greater: God, nature, or the universe.
One can’t listen well internally unless the brain and body aren’t under the whispering, thwarting spells of stimulants, and structure is the silencing container.