Many times, family members and close friends of addicts become just as affected by addiction as the person they are trying to “save.”
After cycles of empty threats, detachment, and giving in to sympathy, they may start to feel defeated in their attempts to resolve the core issue of their loved one’s addiction. But these failed attempts have the potential to erupt into the damaging pangs of resentment and animosity if boundaries are not established when a loved one refuses drug or alcohol treatment.
At Palm Beach Institute, establishing a strong front against the manipulative behavior often associated with addiction is paramount to treatment. In unison with PBI’s mantra of the family becoming the clients, each therapist approaches addiction treatment in his or her unique way to crumble the unhealthy relationship between an addict and enabling loved ones.
Ultimately, distressed siblings or worrisome parents and spouses may be surprised to discover the best way to continue helping the drug addict is by becoming selfish. Not to confuse this type of selfishness with the vain flaw of self-indulgence, instead, this type of selfishness will help you better understand your role in the addiction. Through self reflection and establishing consequences, your actions will begin to speaker louder than your words.
Learn to separate from an addict
“Detach with love,” advises Genna Gowen, a PBI therapist who has no problem tackling the issues of the facility’s young male clients. Stern yet compassionate, Gowen embodies the notion by confronting parents who have lost themselves in the whirlwind of addiction.
Although this step may seem like the opposite of love, it’s, in fact, an action made from love, and not in spite of it. Separation means you are no longer accepting things you cannot change while the addict’s toxic behaviors will no longer affect you and vice versa.
For change to occur, family members will have to first analyze and change how they are dealing with substance abuse. Sometimes, the only way to enact a difference in someone else’s life is by letting them assume the responsibilities for their choices. By temporarily removing yourself from the addict’s destructive path, you will begin to revitalize your bruised emotional state and may even realize you were more a part of the problem than the solution.
If you are still struggling with the guilt of separation, think about the times you poured everything you had, including finances, into treatment and intervention for the addict. If all of these initiatives were met by defiance or short-lived bouts of hope before an abrupt relapse, it’s time to consider or be firm with your decision of detachment.
Identify and stop enabling patterns
By no longer being abused by the addict’s entitlement to your livelihood, you are protecting the rest of the family from addictive behaviors. Family members who are prone to enabling the addict often become victims of theft or verbal and physical assault.
Enabling is the basis of a codependent relationship, which occurs when the compliant family member is being controlled by the addict. When the bond of a codependent relationship is severed, it forces the addict to respect personal boundaries and allows the family member to become independent from the control of the addict.
Don’t be afraid to confront
Besides enabling, one of the most dangerous things family members often mistake for help is refusing to confront an addict.
Setting consequences is realistic and makes people actually think about their decisions. Though confrontation usually carries a negative connotation, there is a less invasive technique to addressing friction.
For instance: Many people will let their emotions turn into grudges, making them explode with anger when they finally decide to confront an addict. To prevent a screaming match from taking place, it’s important to confront issues as soon as you become uncomfortable. If your spouse decides to stay out all night drinking, the next morning you can address the issue by saying, “Your actions last night had me worried and could have put our children in harm. Therefore, next time, don’t expect me to pick you up from the bar at 3 A.M.”
In this manner, you are not forcing someone else to make a decision that you would have made, but you are asserting your authority by expressing your feelings and then setting new boundaries for the relationship.
Confrontation should be a space where you can honestly express your emotions without causing any malicious harm. Once you become better at communication with the addict, it will be easier for you to respect each other’s decisions. This step also makes detachment and disabling easier.
Take responsibility for your role in addiction
Family members may look at themselves as victims of drug and alcohol addiction. But they may not be considering the role they’ve had in making a loved one further indulge in addiction.
Though separating, not enabling, and confrontation are all things that can help the family member, ultimately, it will mostly benefit the addict. By allowing the addict to freely make decisions and become affected by consequences, it will help them to make a genuine decision to change.
In the process of trying to help someone suffering from addiction, family members can further push an addict into seclusion by forcing them into drug rehab—a step they may not be ready to take.
By giving an addict whatever they ask for and turning a blind eye to their behavior, parents or spouses will think this will get them to change when, in fact, it’s only hurting both parties.
Accepting the role you may have played in the addiction is a part of the healing process and repairing brokenness from past hurt.
Are you or a loved one suffering from addiction?
At the Palm Beach Institute, we are aware of the destructive nature addiction has on families, so we are dedicated to helping not just the clients but families recover from drug abuse. It’s important that the client has a strong support system and that’s just what our caring staff offers. If you or a loved one are suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction that has torn apart your family, call us today at (844) 381-0071. Our 24-7 addiction specialists are on standby ready to assist you in making the first steps to restore yourself and relationships.