Here we’ll cover:
- Change is possible
- Top 5 reasons to be optimistic
- Intro to being a Change Agent
- How We The Village can help
- One thing to do now
1. Change is possible
Healing is possible.
Not just statistically
But for you and your family (or friend, or romantic partner, or sibling)
When you don’t know where to start
Or it seems you’ve tried everything
With little or what may feel like no success
Or maybe your loved one doesn’t seem to want to make changes
It can feel really, really overwhelming
But there’s evidence for optimism that addiction isn’t final
2. Top 5: Reasons to be Optimistic
One more time…
- Your role is really important,
Research shows the opposite of addiction is connection.
- What you’re going through is more common than you think
22 million people struggle with addiction to substance use, that’s 22 million concerned families and friends, like you
- Change is possible
Like a broken arm, given time and support, the brain can heal, and habits around addiction can change.
- Evidence-based options for treating addiction exist,
There are behavioral therapies, medications and support groups and services proven to help
- Different people need different options
The healing road is not a one-path-fits-all
Every step of the way
To help you find the paths that work for you and your loved one
Like a tribe, like a family.
3. Intro to the brain and change
Motivation drives behavior.
The more we understand motivation (ours and our loved ones),
the more power we have to be effective agents of change.
It can be hard to understand why someone continually chooses the path of addiction
when it harms almost every aspect of their life
Even though someone’s actions may seem crazy at times,
(especially for those close to us, like spouses or family members)
know that the motivation to use substances makes more sense
when we learn a little about the brain.
Clinical studies have shown that some brains have fewer of certain receptors than others,
which means some of us have less access to natural “feel good” chemicals than others
Once a brain experiences something powerful that gives it access
to the feel-good chemicals that have been lacking,
naturally it will want to repeat the activity,
no matter what it is.
That’s how addiction happens.
The brain creates pathways inside itself according to repeated behavior!!
The more we repeat a specific behavior, the more trained that path becomes in the brain
making it extremely difficult to begin, or maintain, a new behavior where there’s already a well-worn path.
A path of least resistance.
Think of the things you’ve tried to change that have caused minimal to no visible harm in your life -
whether losing a few pounds for summer or checking social media.
Another hard but helpful fact to know is
Usually less than 20% of a population at risk is prepared to take action towards change at any given time.
People tend to not attempt what they think they cannot do.
Here’s where a big healthy dose of evidence-based, genuine optimism on your end can begin to plant a seed.
What this means - and though it may feel counterintuitive - is that in the early stages,
encouraging your loved one to take action
isn’t the most effective route.
Instead, seeing and consistently acknowledging the little things that are good in them
directs their attention to positive aspects in themselves, if only momentarily.
This sets a seed in them to initiate small positive changes
that ripple out into bigger changes.
We’re here to assure you that these small acts of positive acknowledgment
actually lay the groundwork for change.
To repeat what you saw in the video
because knowing this is so important
Human relationships and connection = the opposite of addiction
and change is possible
There’s science to back it up
That means YOU
Can focus on sustaining little, authentic, positive interactions
So your loved one feels moments of unconditional acceptance
Because that’s all it takes to begin building connection where there’s been a gap
By becoming like family — there through thick and thin — you help reflect what’s good and buoy what’s bad
4. How we the Village can help
Our immediate opportunity is
To point you in the direction of easy actions you can implement now
That are proven to be the building blocks of change, and
Remind you that change happens very gradually
And you have a role in change-making
For the person you’re concerned about and yourself
Your role is most powerful when you take evidence-supported actions.
So we’ll be here all along the way
Giving you effective tools to support the person you love,
And showing you how to feel better
This begins with taking care of yourself in ways you might not have been doing lately
Creating a knowledge base and support system that over time has the power to reduce problematic substance use.
5. One thing to do now
You might be wondering, “Ok, so what can I do now?”
Let’s start here.
Select one of the 5 options presented next. Whichever one feels right for where you’re at today, and don’t worry, we’ll get into the heavier stuff. Remember that in order to make sustainable change it’s important to start small. These actions are great small steps.
Practice Patience and positivity - Change happens over time
Take into consideration, during your interactions with the person you love, that for right now, their brain has made it very difficult for them to make new choices. Let this inform your level of compassion and openness. When you do, you both have the opportunity to feel a genuine connection with one another. And, as mentioned, connection is the opposite of addiction. Plant the seeds of change by noticing and and acknowledging out loud the good things about the person.
Action: Practice positivity - say one nice thing that you really mean today! Make eye contact when you do it.
Connections - Maintain yours!
Find someone to talk to who has a positive, proactive outlook and who will maintain it towards you and the person you love — a family member, a close friend, etc. If you don’t already know a person like this, be willing to try a support group. We ALL need support and a place for reflection.
Action: Invite a friend to your Village support team today, you may be surprised just how ready and willing your friends and family are to support you.
Self-care is king
Get a good night’s sleep. Over and over again. Research shows that we are more likely to overreact when we’re not getting 7 - 9 hours of sleep a night because our cognitive functions are impaired, and a Harvard study connects sleep deprivation with depression and mental health problems.
Action: Plan ahead and set a bedtime for tonight.
Keep context - it’s not uncommon
Remind yourself that though this might feel like a crazy situation, you are not crazy. The person you love is not crazy. When you go down the rabbit hole of believing your situation is different, shameful or abnormal, you set yourself up for isolation. Change is VERY hard to make in isolation.
Action: Imagine seeing 22 million from all different places and backgrounds in one place. The face of the person you love is also in this sea of people. Now imagine knowing that they ALL struggle with substance use in a way that harms their lives, maybe similarly to the person you’re concerned About. Next, imagine all the concerned friends and family around all these people. We are not alone. We are in this together Finally, if you know anyone who might need the support of the Village too, maybe now’s the time to invite them to join you here.
Finally, there are resources and options proven to help.
Know that there are evidence-based services that can support you, that different options work for different people, and that we’ll be here every step of the way with you to help you find the right ones for you and the person you’re concerned about. Support groups are great, but they’re not for everyone, and there’s other options worth exploring too.
Action: Chat with a specialist if you want to explore more options.