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Denial is a hallmark of addiction. A person living with the disease hides from problems and reality to feel better and may need outside encouragement to admit something is wrong.
Addiction is a disease with behavioral and physical causes. An LGBT person may begin using substances for many reasons—to feel better, to fit in socially or to experiment note researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Then substance use may lead to addiction in many ways. A person with depression or an anxiety disorder may misuse drugs as a way to feel relaxed or happy. Or a person who associates drugs with parties and a good time may begin to rely on them to feel good more and more often.
Over time substances that release brain chemicals associated with pleasure and relaxation change neural pathways in the brain. The chemicals stimulate pleasure and reward pathways that can make a person crave drugs compulsively, which compels him to spend greater amounts of time and energy getting and taking drugs.
Helping a Person with an Addiction
When drugs and alcohol, or even behaviors like gambling and sex, take over the majority of a person’s life, he needs help. A person with an addiction acts in ways that are harmful to him and others, and he may ignore the signs of damaged relationships or lost career opportunities. It’s scary to face the consequences of a disease like addiction. In fact the impulse to deny that something is wrong is common among people with chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Being honest about disease symptoms forces people to face the reality of mortality and the necessity of taking action to improve personal health notes the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
Understanding the total impact of addiction is difficult for an LGBT person experiencing all the disease’s symptoms. A person struggling with alcohol may not recognize her drinking patterns are different from her friends’ drinking. Or she may not see the ways her behavior harms her friendships even though she knows how many drinks she has on a given night.
Showing Compassion to a Person with an Addiction
A harsh and direct approach that accuses a person of making terrible mistakes often backfires according to Hazelden. Even though it’s easy to feel angry and betrayed by a person who ignores family members to drink or erupts in frightening rages, it’s important to pause and reflect before approaching the person. Because addiction is a brain disease, a person living with symptoms is focused on feeding her addiction with substances instead of family and friends.
A wealth of emotion lies behind a person’s refusal to admit an addiction according to Hazelden. He fears the stigma associated with admitting the substance problem. He doesn’t want to face rejection and wants to avoid conflict with others. He also may want to avoid feelings of guilt and the pain of low self-esteem. Encouraging a person to recognize the disease and seek help takes several steps including the following according to Hazelden and Addiction Treatment magazine.
- Concerned family and friends should begin talking to an LGBT loved one about the symptoms of addiction and offering valid information about the disease.
- If possible find a person living a sober lifestyle who can offer support and help.
- Let the person experience consequences as long as the experience doesn’t endanger him or others. For example, if he passes out in the yard, leave him there so he can experience the results of being unprotected in the elements.
- Be prepared with specific examples of ways taking substances creates problems in the person’s life. Try to mention these consequences casually when spending time with the person.
- Be educated about treatment options in the area and ways to get in to a treatment program or find a support group.
It may take several conversations before a person is willing to make changes and seek treatment. Approaching the person with compassion and understanding about her disease will help the acceptance process.
Need Help Finding Addiction Treatment?
It can be a difficult first step to make the decision to seek help for addiction. When it’s clear a family member or friend in the LGBT community needs help, there many options for achieving and living in recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use problem, please call our toll-free helpline.
Our admissions coordinators are trained to offer expert advice and provide guidance about the best possible treatment options. We help individuals overcome addictions with a philosophy that addresses the whole person—mentally, physical and spiritually. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day for advice. Don’t struggle alone. Call us today.