Reaching out with a little compassion

Compassion. When we have compassion we allow ourselves to see the suffering of another human being and do what we can to help stop the suffering, to help prevent it from happening again. The tools of compassion are found in our abilities to be patient and use our best wisdom to encourage the person we want to help. We encourage each other through words and acts of kindness. We stay in the game, persistent. The genuine warmth we show another person helps to keep them on the path they need to be on. When we are compassionate we are willing to go out of our way, accept the interruption in our own lives. We take the time and make the effort to help alleviate the suffering so the person can focus on how to get to a better place. We can’t “fix” anyone but ourselves. But we can encourage and emotionally support a troubled person – that proverbial hand up. When you think about it, when you feel down, what uplifts you?

This seems to be a long way around to the topic of stigma. It’s so easy to say that someone with a substance abuse problem chose to become addicted to something … poor morals, no willpower … but the facts are profoundly deeper than that. A person may make the choice the first time, but everyone is different and how we are affected by what we choose to do varies from person to person.

So how does addiction happen?

There are two parts of the brain that are affected by substance misuse, advises the Addiction Policy Forum in a newly published report, “Navigating Addiction and Treatment: A Guide for Families.” The goal of the forum is “to eliminate addiction as a major health problem by translating the science of addiction and bringing all stakeholders to the table.”

The limbic system is deep in the brain, the place that’s in control of basic survival instincts, things like eating, drinking, seeking shelter … all the things our brains tell us we need to do to survive. The second part of the brain to be affected is the cortex, the place where decisions are made and impulses are controlled.

The substances that cause all the trouble – the harmful ones that people take into their bodies – convince the brain that the substance (alcohol or drug) is the most important thing they need for survival, even when it is not. As the individual develops tolerance for the harmful substance, more of the substance is needed to achieve the same level of pleasure. The longer the substance is used, the more damage is done to the brain.

The Addiction Policy Forum states that while the brain function is impaired, it can also be repaired, but it takes time, treatment and abstinence to recover. Statistics say one in seven Americans suffer addiction. Another 23 million are in recovery. At the top of the addiction list are 1.) alcohol; 2.) marijuana; and 3.) opioid use disorder.

“In 2014, over 22 percent of individuals with SUD did not seek out treatment because they felt that it would have a negative effect on their employment or the way in which their neighbors and community would view them,” according to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.)

The report advises that “only about 10 percent of people with substance use disorder receive any type of specialty treatment.”

Addiction is chronic condition that requires time to bring the condition under control and managed for the rest of the person’s life. It can be done with encouragement, rather than condemnation, knowledge, and the wisdom of how to use it. The Golden Rule comes into play: Treat others as you want to be treated. If you were the one suffering a substance use disorder, how would you want to be treated? It can happen to anyone.


Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the web site at www.familyrecovery.org. Family Recovery Center is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.


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