I have many years of experience treating various addictions. I have worked with addicts and co-enablers of all ages: as young as 12 and into late adulthood. Most of my intensive outpatient work in the area of substance abuse and co-enabling was at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland facility, where my patients were adult addicts and their families, and at the Walnut Creek Kaiser facility, where the identified addicts were teenagers, their siblings and parents.
A general definition of addiction that I find to be useful is:
Continued use (or actions) despite negative consequences.
Addiction is a disease of the mind. Brain chemistry is altered and reality is distorted. It is often justified, rationalized, and minimized by the addict, who needs to hold on to the belief that “I could stop any time; I just don’t want to give up something I enjoy.” All addictions are progressive and most lead to unfortunate outcomes.
A descriptive, practical definition of co-enabling addiction is:
Getting in the way of the individual and their crisis.
This is done by rescuing, over-functioning, making excuses or distorting reality in an attempt to manage the addict and/or the addict’s use. It is very difficult to know when and how to help an addict. Addiction has a profound impact on the partner, parent or child of the addict who is powerless to affect change in the behavior of the loved one.
Addiction manifests in a variety of ways:
- Internet Abuse
- Love addiction
- Sex and Cybersex addiction
- Spending and Shopping – currently under construction
The most important decision for an addict family is to reach outside of its system for help. This may seem counter- intuitive because it is instinctive to isolate and avoid the outside world due to dysfunction, chaos, shame and fear of being judged.
Addiction is an illness, not a choice. But it is an illness that can be destructive to the addict and others. Because of this, there is far less compassion afforded to an addict than to others suffering from chronic illness, such as diabetes. It is a remarkable experience being part of the recovery process with an addict and/or with his/her significant others. I sincerely feel it is a privilege to do this work.
If you or a family member are struggling with addiction, please call or e-mail me to discuss the options. We can discuss a treatment plan for your particular need, whether with me, another provider, and/or community resources.