The pain and suffering of drug addiction are not just felt by the addict themselves; it is also felt by the family as well. The shame, guilt, fear, and anger felt by the family in their concern about a loved one’s drinking and/or drug use creates a significant and sometimes unbearable burden. The disease of addiction can twist the love and willingness of family members to help into enabling behaviors that further perpetuate the cycles of addiction.
Families need to find ways to turn those enabling behaviors into those that are directed towards more effective strategies to not only help the addict but the family itself. The family unit needs to find ways to detach themselves from the actions, behaviors and consequences brought on by their loved one’s addiction and find ways to help in a positive manner. The following are some ways the family can help an addict without enabling:
Learn About the Disease of Addiction
Families of loved ones who are struggling with addiction need to understand the dynamics of addiction as a disease. Realizing that addiction is a chronic and progressive disease will help family members understand their loved one isn’t a bad person but a sick person in need of treatment and intervention. Family members can educate themselves on the many facets of addiction by attending twelve-step meetings (Al-anon, Alateen, etc.) and counseling.
Cut Off Financial Support
Another way the family can help the addict is by providing financial support. Money is the lifeline for the addict to continue their use. Financial support can take many forms including paying bills, buying groceries, and paying rent among others. While money may be given to the addict with the best intentions, the addict themselves will use those funds to procure drugs and alcohol. By cutting off financial support, the addict may be forced to realize the consequences of their actions, may go through withdrawals and may seek treatment.
Focus On Your Own Life
The consequences of a loved one’s addiction pull attention away from the individual responsibilities that each family member has in their own lives. Therefore, another way that family can help an addict is to turn away from focusing on the addict and renewing their energies with their own day-to-day living. While on the surface it may not look like it, putting the focus back into individual and family responsibilities may force the addict to examine how their actions and behaviors impact their own life.
Truth and consequences are the foundations of insight and these foundations hold true for addiction. Rescuing the addicted person from his or her consequences only ensures that more consequences must occur before the need for recovery is realized. The same can be said for ultimatums and threats; words only marginally impact the alcoholic or addict. The maxim actions speak louder than words has great application.
Enroll in a Family Program
Drug and alcohol abuse are seen as family diseases at its core, and it is important that the family gets as much support and guidance as the addict does. In order for families to better help the addict, attending meetings such as Al-Anon or Nar-anon are essential in order to receive continual education on the disease of addiction as well as ongoing peer support. Families can also register for family programs (if available) at the drug treatment facility their loved one is attending. The process of recovery is continual and families need to grow into recovery much like their loved one who is struggling with addiction and finding recovery.