If you have a loved one who is suffering from addiction to drugs or alcohol, you probably wonder why he or she refuses to make the choice for addiction recovery, when recovery is so clearly indicated. Or why does he decide to drive drunk? Why does she choose to forego eating in favor of drinking or using all day? When will he see that he’s isolating instead of participating in the world? In short, why do our addicted loved ones make choices that have such negative consequences? Once an addict or alcoholic has made the choice for addiction recovery, life often quickly becomes immeasurably better.
The truth is, addiction robs individuals of the ability to make sane choices. As the saying goes in recovery circles and twelve-step meetings, “our best thinking got us here”. The part of the brain affected by drugs and alcohol is the part where decision-making occurs. Addicted individuals don’t make choices, not even obvious recovery choices; they act on impulse. While it’s necessary to hold addicted persons responsible for the consequences of their behavior, compassion is also in order. We all make mistakes, some big, some small, and one of those mistakes is picking up drugs in the first place.
Deciding on Recovery Over Addiction
Understanding the biological roots of poor decision-making is important in dealing with our addicted loved ones; researchers are also finding decision-making an important aspect of addiction, one that holds possibilities for recovery. For instance, a new study from Yale indicates that addiction could be a developmental disorder occurring during the teen years. Impulse and risky behavior are likely to occur more often than restraint in teenagers because the circuitry of a teenager’s brain leans more toward repeating novel experiences than the mechanisms that inhibit them. The study shows that at this developmental stage, the repeated compulsive behavior may have profound and lasting – even permanent – effects.
This is a new way of looking at recovery from addiction. Most studies are conducted on the brains of adults, even though most addicted individuals start drug use during the pre-teen or teen years. By knowing the intricacies of adolescent brain development, scientists may be closer to helping addicted individuals make recovery choices and leave addiction behind. Our addiction specialists are standing by to assist men, women, and families affected by substance abuse.