Addiction impacts a family’s financial, physical and psychological well-being. As a family member, we all stand in this disease wondering what went wrong in the past that our loved one has become such a slave to the disease of addiction. Most family members do not have the insight to know what to do or say that will help the addict. In this post, we will look at some interventions we can do as a family member or friend to help break free from our loved one’s addiction.
Learn about the disease of addiction:
Educating ourselves will help understand that this is a disease and it is treatable. That should give hope that the end result can be a life of happiness and content. Addiction does not have to be a death sentence. Because it is a disease hopefully family members can let go of the guilt and shame that somehow it is their fault. When learning about the disease, we realize it isn’t about us at all. It is all about the addict, the behaviors, and the lifestyle.
Learning about the disease of addiction and how the brain is hijacked and changed proved the addict isn’t able to “just quit taking the drug” once the addiction has taken over. Remember, their life becomes revolves around the getting and using (the obsession and compulsion) that continues, like running along in the hamster wheel unable to get off without help. This awareness teaches us exactly what the addiction really is.
Reaching out for support:
Now having knowledge about addiction, loved ones of addicts really feel confused and do not know what to do with this information. Probably the biggest piece of advice I would give would be to find a good support system. There are support groups available all over the world. For family and loved ones of addicts there is Al Anon, Narc Anon, SMART, and others that are in limited areas. Also, there are thousands of AA, NA, and other 12 step and non 12 step programs that have open meetings you can attend.
This is a place where you can vent and listen to others that understand what you are going through. That can share their experiences with you, offer suggestions, and give you hope that things can turn around. This is very important and the relationships you build can be lifelong. AA, NA and other groups where the addict attends, can show you the struggle they are going through, You can look into their lives when they share and see the strength and desire they have to quit using and find a different way to live. This may take a step of humility for a family member. The benefits will clearly outweigh the negatives of putting yourself out there. Dealing with addiction can be exhausting mentally and emotionally. Through education and support, we learn how to support the addict, but not the addiction.
Changing our own behaviors:
This is quite a bit of information to take in, but lastly, family needs to look and possibly change their own behaviors with the addict. This process is emotionally hard on the family to implement and continue. It takes strength and determination to change a dysfunctional behavior that has been going on for any length of time. That is why it is good to have a support system in place.
One behavior is financial supporting the addict. Some parents of addicts say they do not give money for drugs to their child, but pay for their rent, utilities, gas, car, groceries etc. This allows the addict to “live” while spending their own money or other sources to get their drugs. Standing up saying there will be no more financial support may have a negative reaction and they may become hostile, loud, and/or threatening, It is cutting off their ability to continue their level of drug use.
Another behavior is setting realistic expectations and boundaries in place. Loved ones of addicts must come to realize they cannot control or “fix” the addict or anyone else for that matter. Using the serenity prayer when faced with an issue helps to realize what or if there is anything you can do in that situation. We have become very accustom to the dysfunction and need to evaluate what we can and cannot do to help the addict. The ability to say no is one of the first step towards change.
There has to be rules in place or an addict will continue to do whatever it takes to continue their drug. These are safety issues that are serious in nature. Some examples are aggressive, abusive, or violent behavior towards you or anyone else in household. Another issue is if they endangered your home like bringing the people associated with drugs to your home and/or doing or leaving the drugs and paraphernalia around you or others in home. Lastly economical safety by stealing your money or items at home to pay for habit.
Sometimes families may have to call the authorities due to some behaviors above. A family may have to make a decision to have them leave the home and not return until they are sober. If the addict is a minor, families may make the hard choice to put them in detox or rehab program.
Family should let their loved one know they are willing to help them in their recovery, but will no longer be playing an active role in their downward spiral. Learning about the disease, reaching out for support and focusing on changing some behaviors and putting up boundaries all help the family move forward. Hopefully it will help the addict as well realize the family loves them and wants them well.
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