Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease which can destroy the life of the addict. Addiction is also a family disease in the fact that the relationships within the family unit are severely tested and can become severely dysfunctional. For the family of the addict, there is great stress and embarrassment that is felt along with anger and resentment. As a family, you want to help your addicted loved one break their addiction, but you are unsure of how to do so. While done with the best of intentions, the help that family members give to addicted family members ends up making things worse.
Helpful Tips for Family Members of Addicts
In order to truly help an addicted family member through these trying times, families as a whole need to have a plan in place that will help both the addict and the family unit to effectively heal. Chances are you are at the point where previous attempts at helping an addicted family member have been unsuccessful and the entire family unit is on the brink of chaos. The following are some excellent tips that families in addiction can utilize to help the addict recover from substance abuse and can help the entire family recover.
As it was stated in the opening, addiction is a chronic and progressive disease. This disease doesn’t appear overnight; it is created from the perfect storm of biological, social and environmental factors in the addict’s life. It is mandatory that you as a family educate yourself on the disease of addiction as well as what options are available for recovery for your addicted loved ones.
The internet is an excellent and vast resource that is at your fingertips and there are many great government and treatment websites that you can visit to get the information you need. You can also schedule an appointment with your doctor or with an addiction specialist. Additionally, if you have a local non-profit organization that specializes in addiction treatment and intervention services, they are also an excellent resource that can provide you with confidential information as well as support.
Despite advances in the way addiction is treated and thought of in our society, the stigma surrounding addiction and addict is still prevalent. Having an addicted family member can be a source of great embarrassment and you as a family can feel that you are alone and have nowhere to turn. Fortunately, there are support groups that are available to you that can provide encouragement and support for you to lean on during these difficult times. Support groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are based on Twelve Step principles and are comprised of families in addiction.
Members of these support groups do not give direction or advice to other members or a newcomer. Instead, they share their personal experiences and stories and invite other members to “take what they like and leave the rest”—that is, to determine for themselves what lesson they could apply to their own lives. Along with arming yourself with knowledge from your own research, these support groups can also provide a valuable resource and provide a strong sense of community, support, and empowerment.
Stop Enabling, Start Accountability
In the context of addiction, enabling can be defined as removing the natural consequences to the addict of his or her behavior. As a family, it is your gut instinct to try and solve the addict’s problems yourself. This may include paying their bills, taking them grocery shopping and making excuses for their behavior. Again, while these actions are done with the best of intentions, the addict is not being held accountable for there actions and their addiction grows worse and causes greater family unrest.
As a family, you need to stop enabling. While you still fully love the addict and will be there to support them when they decide to go to treatment, you have to be firm in the fact that you are no longer going to bail them out of tough situations. This can be extremely tough and you may encounter anger and resentment, it is for the addict’s own good. If you do decide to help the addict, buy the goods and services they need instead of giving the addict money.
Tell Other Family and Friends
Chances are that family and friends already know of your loved one’s addiction. However, you need to tell family members outside the immediate family and friends of the situation. It is important to tell them not to give the addict any money or a place to stay. If the immediate family has stopped all enabling behaviors, the addict will look to other family or friends for help thinking they may not know what is truly happening. With more people on board and on the same page, it will make it extremely difficult for the addict to continue to support their habit.
Be Involved in Treatment
If your addicted loved one is in or is going to drug treatment, many rehabs offer family counseling and therapy. As stated earlier, addiction is seen as a family disease and it is important that the entire family goes through counseling and therapy along with the addict. Along with the counselor, both family and addict can uncover the root causes of addiction and work together to address those issues in order to provide an environment where the addict can sustain their recovery.
The worry and attention focused on the addict can be exhausting and your health can suffer as a result. You need time to recover and you need to practice solid self-care such as getting enough sleep, eating right and regular exercise. You and your family also need to try and engage in your normal activities and have the time to care for each other.
The Most Important Tip to Remember…
Above all other things, please remind yourself of one thing…IT ISN’T YOUR FAULT. You can’t control another person’s decisions and you can’t force them to change. You want to remember the three C’s when dealing with an addict:
- You didn’t Cause the addiction.
- You can’t Control the addiction.
- You can’t Cure the addiction.