When people struggle with addiction, there’s always collateral damage. In addition to exacting a physical toll, addiction also leaves mental, emotional, and relational chaos in its wake. Friendships fractured. Sibling bonds shipwrecked. Marriages devastated.
While it’s difficult to determine which factors of drug abuse lead to the most pain, friends and family members of those trapped in addiction can suffer deep emotional wounds when their loved ones keep choosing drugs over them. In many cases, this behavior becomes a cycle, and each time it repeats itself, the hurt deepens.
Yet if we’re able to understand what motivates people to choose drugs over relational bonds, we’re in a better position not only to deal with the pain but to help break the cycle.
Three Reasons Why People Choose Drugs over Friends and Family:
Reason 1: Denial
Denial is a primary roadblock to addiction recovery, and it’s also a reason why people continue to choose drugs over their loved ones.
People in denial about their addiction display one or more of the following traits:
- They just don’t care.
- They believe they are in complete control.
- They don’t think their addiction is harming anyone else.
- They view themselves as a victim.
Someone who cannot recognize their need for change has no motivation to change. As long as they believe their own lies about being in control, not harming anyone else, and actually being victims themselves, those trapped in addiction will continue choosing drugs over family and friends.
Reason 2: Defeatism
When someone is trapped in addiction, they often feel an overwhelming sense of despair. Knowing how deeply they’ve already hurt their friends and family, they may become convinced that there’s nothing they can do to dig themselves out of the hole. That nothing can fix their dilemma. The more convinced they become that their relationships have already passed the point of no return, the more likely they become to keep turning to drugs for comfort, distraction, or a numbing oblivion.
In many cases, it is not true that they have already destroyed their relationships beyond repair. Though addiction is always damaging to relationships, restitution is usually possible. The active agent in defeatist thinking, however, is not reality but the perception of reality.
As long as someone perceives that there’s no hope to fix things even if they change, they’ll have much less motivation to actually change.
Reason 3: Biological Drive
Though people may initially choose to take drugs of their own volition, there comes a point at which their bodies take over and biological imperatives sit in the driver’s seat.
Brain studies of people with addiction show physical changes in parts of the brain that are very important for judgment, making decisions, learning and memory, and controlling behavior. Scientists have shown that when this happens to the brain, it changes how the brain works and it explains the harmful behaviors of addiction that are so hard to control. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
These changes at the physiological level explain why those in a cycle of addiction will often make choices against their own best interests, including abandoning relationships with their closest loved ones. On some level, their ability to process information and make rational decisions has been altered.
A Way Forward
With denial, defeatism, and a biological drive working against them, it’s difficult for those abusing drugs to imagine a way forward. Often it’s equally difficult for the friends, family, and loved ones who long to support them to understand why their loved one keeps choosing drugs over them.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to stay this way. There’s help available through treatment, resources, and community.
No one needs to walk this path alone.