Dear nonaddicted friend:

“Why can’t they just stop?” Such a familiar refrain. Well, “they” may not be unwilling, just unable. At some point in all disease, the body does what the body does. A cancer patient can be as willing as you can imagine to stay in remission, but is obviously unable. Once your body/mind has become addicted, you have no more control than if you wanted to control cancer.

Once you grasp this truth, you never again need ask “Why can’t they just stop?”

No one wants to lose control of themselves, lose their families, homes, businesses, reputations. No one wants to be an addict, a diabetic, a person with cancer. “Yeah, yeah,” you’re saying, “if I could control my diabetes or cancer by behavior, I would just do it.” Simply put, you have no idea what you are talking about. The biochemistry of the brain of an addict has been altered. Once a person goes from casual using or drinking to losing control of their ability to stop using and drinking, the brain has already been altered. Sometimes the brain can repair, sometimes not. And even though this has become a disease, it is treatable.

The frustration of family members, the disruptions to family life are heart wrenching. Might I be speaking of any terminal illness? The difference between addiction and other diseases is, we don’t get angry at anyone whose disease is anything besides addiction.

People are starting drug use at very young ages. The reasons are many. It is harder to get a young person to go into recovery because they have not suffered horrific consequences because of their addiction. Additionally, drug use has become so mainstream, it is now actually a rite of passage for many adolescents. Just tune into MTV and listen to the brainwashing—“party and get messed up.” But what if “your” addict is older? Well, what about them? Some have tried over and over. They have lost so much. For some, rehab is no more than a drying-out period to get some relief from being dope sick or maybe just a last-ditch effort to avoid jail time. Some are just so tired of the daily fight to get more drugs. The lying, stealing, and feeling dope sick make them try over and over. Unfortunately, the success rate is dismal.

Many new medications are able to control cravings of this brain disease. I hope some of the information in the following chapters will be helpful in giving renewed hope to all those who have suffered as the loved one of an addict. Don’t give up hope, don’t despair, but do give up being an enabler. Do give up anger; do give up blame and guilt. As the Alcoholics Anonymous saying goes, “You didn’t cause it . . . you can’t control it . . . you can’t cure it.” Do educate yourself; do join groups with like-minded people for support and understanding.

Recovery begins when the addict is ready, not when you are ready, no matter how badly you wish it. The only person who can do something about their addiction is the addicted. Keep in mind, there is an army out there of people who want to assist you during these difficult times. Take advantage of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Just like the addict, you are not alone.

Addiction is a disease; make no mistake. The person who can start and stay on the road to recovery is not you. More often than not, hard decisions have to be made. Cutting a family member off from all contact and financial help may have to happen. If you are able, keep them on your health insurance plans so that paid rehab is a possible option. It is a real lifesaver on this very rough sea. Get involved with others that are facing the same challenges you are dealing with. Let YANA be your mantra. You are not alone.