Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Healthy Habits: Coping with a Loved One's Addiction

I recently had a chance to interview author, speaker and physician assistant Lisa Gennosa about her new memoir,  Incurable Hope: A Memoir and Survival Guide for Coping with a Loved One’s Addiction. Incurable Hope takes readers on a journey through Gennosa’s only child’s battle with addiction and overcoming the trauma he — and her family — endured as he fought against the disease. Gennosa also examines how substance use disorder, mental health and trauma can collide with the legal and medical systems, and ways the system not only failed her family and her fight to make things better for others. But more importantly Incurable Hope is a survival guide for anyhow who loves someone battling addiction. Lisa hopes that by sharing her story and what she has learned, she can help other families who are plagued with addiction.

What are some warning signs - especially often-overlooked ones - that someone is battling addiction? 


Warning signs of addition, especially early on, can be very elusive. However, there are a few things that can happen right in front of your eyes that are overlooked such as, with alcohol, drinking daily, drinking even when suggesting someone shouldn’t, drinking to cope, hiding alcohol or becoming more isolated. With other illicit drugs, you can look for pinpoint or enlarged pupils, mood swings, irritability and poor sleeping patterns. With all the warning signs, it can still be difficult until legal or medical consequences become part of the picture.  


What is the difference between loving and enabling? 


Defining love versus enabling is incredibly difficult, but it comes down to establishing boundaries. It can be so hard to know that your loved one may be cold, hungry or homeless—so we do everything to provide the means to avoid that—but the truth is, those factors are typically the catalyst for your loved one to seek help.  So, make the right choices at the right times and let natural consequences be the driving force your loved one uses to seek help. In other words, love them but don’t love them to death by providing the means for them to continue to use.  


How can someone navigate the legal and medical ramifications of a loved one battling addiction? 


The only way to navigate the legal and medical systems when battling addiction is to educate yourself. There are resources available and important initiatives happening nationwide to improve the outcome of individuals with substance use disorder. Learn about detox protocols, inpatient and outpatient recovery as well as pre-arrest diversion efforts by your law enforcement communities and assist these organizations with their efforts so that outcomes improve for all.   


Why is it important to reclaim your own life when dealing with a loved one's addiction?  


Reclaiming your own life has a powerful effect—a net positive effect even—on everyone around you including your loved one with substance use disorder. Getting proper sleep, exercise and eating a healthy diet seems nearly impossible when someone you love is in active addiction, however this is the most critical time to take care of yourself.  When you do these things, you are better able to step up to the plate to help your loved one when the time comes!  

Recognizing the value of the other important individuals in your life as well as the value of your favorite pastimes, your career, your community and even the love for yourself is all part of reclaiming what is rightfully yours. The disease of addiction is known to be a family disease, but it doesn’t have to make you just as sick as the individual battling their substance use disorder.   

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