“Let me get this straight,” I said to the clueless man that stared at me with confusion lacing his eyes. “You want your granddaughter to quit smoking pot, know that when she gets pissed off she’s more likely to smoke, and then get pissed at her for smoking pot?”
The circularity of his actions towards his granddaughter seemed to escape him. His brow furrowed and I could see the hamsters spinning their respective wheels in his head. “Well,” he said. “When you put it that way, it sounds kind of crazy of me, huh?”
“Not sure if I’d call it crazy, but to me, it’s like you’re trying to grab the keys to her car with one hand, but putting gas in it with the other.”
“Huh? I don’t care about her car?”
“No, I’m not talking about her car. Look, your granddaughter likes smoking pot. It’s that basic. You, however, don’t want her to do it, right?”
“Yeah,” he said with an even more confused expression than before. “That’s why I’m talking with you. So you can tell me how to make her stop smoking that crap.”
“Right. You want her to stop, so you fight with her about it. Is that also correct?”
“Come on,” he said. “What’s with the questions? I just want her to stop and, to answer your question, yeah, it’s a constant fight.”
“Well,” I said. “Fighting with her, I figure, triggers her out. She then feels a rush of bad feelings and probably heads straight to her pipe. Addiction is fueled by emotions like anxiety, shame, and anger. By fighting with her, you’re basically providing her with even more reasons for her to use.”
“Oh,” he said while a light bulb made an appearance on top of his head. “You’re saying that pot is her car and I’m trying to get her to stop driving it, but I’m putting the gas in it by pissing her off, right?”
“Exactly,” I said and nodded. “Bad energy fuels addiction.”
“So, then,” he said. “What do you suggest I do about it?”
* * *
And with that I explained to him that there’s actually very little he can do to MAKE her stop smoking pot. Forcing her into treatment may help short term, but long term, probably won’t do much unless things change within her circumstances. See, the best tool someone can use to fight someone else’s addiction is a mirror. That’s right, a mirror. The only person any one of us can change is our own self and even then, that’s pretty damn tough.
Talking with people about Addiction often reminds me of a story I heard once in grad school. A professor relayed a story about an Aspen in the woods. He talked about how the tree looked different during different times of the year, but remained the same tree. That is, the tree stayed the same, but responded differently to seasonal circumstances through which it existed. That story is at the truth of “helping” an addict: All too often, familial and/or other social circumstances around an addict create negative conditions that lead to addiction. I don’t say this to blame anyone, but if a system operates a certain way and a person responds to that system in a negative way, then the fuel remains in place for an addiction to grow and prosper. The answer is to change the system, which often requires individuals within that system to also change.
The Grandfather in my illustration probably does add fuel to her need to use, but doesn’t even realize his impact. That, to me, is why family therapy is so important to treating Addiction because it’s a safe way to address systemic issues that can fuel an addiction. The grandfather should seeks counseling and improve his own life somehow. If he does, maybe he’ll be able to approach his granddaughter without fear or anger and actually learn about the payoff she gets from pot.
Or he could stay the same and fight with her. But either way, she’s going to use until SHE finds motivation to change and lessen or even stop using. I’d say healing himself would be better because then at least he’s on a healthier level than before. I just don’t see how that could hurt…