What are the 3 C’s of Addiction?

According to a study conducted in 2017, 46 percent of Americans report having a close friend or family member who is currently struggling or has struggled in the past with drug abuse. That means that one in two Americans will be faced with the immense emotional, relational and psychological burden of supporting a loved one through the throes of addiction. While the end goal of a support person is always treatment and recovery for their friend or family member, it can be easy to get lost in the efforts of helping someone on the path to healing. 

Friends and family can play an important role in supporting people through their bouts with addiction, but it is crucial to keep some central ideas in mind to maintain boundaries and protect against unhealthy relationship patterns such as codependence and enablement. These ideas are commonly referred to as “The 3 C’s of Addiction.”

I Didn’t Cause It

Regret can be a heavy weight to carry on the journey of supporting a loved one through addiction recovery. Perhaps you toss and turn at night, plagued by thoughts of how you could have prevented their suffering. The truth is, however, regardless of whether or not your actions have contributed to their condition, your friend or family member is responsible for their behavior. 

Taking ownership of someone else’s actions can be an unhealthy coping mechanism for people whose loved ones suffer from substance abuse and addiction. The thought pattern often goes something like this: “If I admit to myself that I caused it, then I can control it.” However, the reality is, that you didn’t cause it, and you can’t control it. This mindset only further enables the toxic behavior and incapacitates the support person from setting healthy emotional boundaries around the issue. 

While there may be some traceable contributing factors to your loved one’s condition, substance use and addiction is a very complex issue. Family roles in addiction have long been studied to understand how someone’s childhood and most immediate community affect their behavior, but it is not the only factor to consider. Other contributing factors include but are not limited to: 

  • Personality type
  • Negative life events or trauma
  • Biological predeterminants, such as genetics
  • Overall mental health
  • Preexisting health conditions
  • Peer pressure
  • History of sexual abuse
  • Socioeconomic status

Regardless of the root cause of addiction, taking responsibility for someone else’s actions is a recipe for frustration, anxiety and burnout.

I Can’t Control It

As difficult as it may seem, accepting your limitations is an important part of being a valuable member of your loved one’s team. Control is generally an illusion, and addiction elicits a special degree of acceptance and surrender for the support person to maintain mental and emotional health. 

There is a fine line between setting boundaries and attempting to exert control over your loved one’s behavior. As your loved one wrestles with addiction, you might find yourself tempted to exert control in a variety of different ways. Awareness of your actions is the first step to setting yourself and your loved one free from unhealthy expectations. 

Here are some warning signs to look out for in your behavior that may indicate you are seeking control over your loved one’s addiction recovery process. 

  1. You give unsolicited advice. You find yourself constantly giving your advice or micromanaging your loved one’s behavior. You think that if you keep offering your opinion, they will eventually listen to you. 
  2. You make excuses for your loved one. If you are in the habit of making excuses for your friend or family member’s choices, it might be a good indicator that you are seeking control over the situation. 
  3. You feel guilty for someone else’s choices. If you experience a feeling of guilt or shame for your loved one’s behavior, you are likely operating under the illusion that you are in a position of some kind of control over them. This would lead you to believe that you somehow failed if they had a setback on their journey. 

If any of these behaviors ring true for you, it is not too late to start setting healthy emotional boundaries with your recovering loved one. Practice accepting them at the moment for who they are today, not who they have been in the past or who they will be in the future. This will help to eventually surrender a desire to control their actions and allow them to take responsibility for the life they choose to live.

I Can’t Cure It

Unfortunately, no amount of love and support alone will cure addiction. Addictive substances alter human brain chemistry and oftentimes lead to a complete disregard for logic and reason. The patterns of a person’s behavior become rooted in the ebbs and flows of the substance’s influence. Addicted people frequently require medical or professional help to uproot themselves from the trenches of substance abuse. 

Releasing yourself from the pressure of finding, or being, someone’s cure from addiction is a crucial step to helping your loved one find lasting healing. Only they can be the ones to choose to change the trajectory of their life through detoxification, rehabilitation and support groups. This humble acknowledgment will allow you as the support person to remove the pressure to “fix” your loved one and instead focus on what they truly need from you in the present moment, whatever that may be. 

Find Support for the Journey

If your loved one is struggling with addiction, you are bearing a heavy burden alongside them. You don’t have to do it alone. Family addiction support is an important part of avoiding the temptation to assume an inordinate amount of ownership for a loved one’s choices. October Road can help you to remain honest, while best contributing to their healing and recovery journey. Contact us online today, or call 888-201-5086 for more information and resources to best assist your loved one to health and freedom. 

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