Help for Family Members of Drug Addicts
- Is Addiction Harming Your Family? Don’t Know What to Do?
- Are you Enabling Addiction? Ways to Tell.
- Their Cure Starts with You
- Support Groups for Families of Drug Addicts (links)
- Take These Actions for a Brighter Tomorrow.
Is Addiction Harming Your Family? Don’t Know What to Do?
It may have started with recreational use, but once they crossed that line into addiction, it is addiction. There is a loss of choice. There is no way around it, only through it. And if, as a family member, you’ve survived all of the trials, deception, worry, and bewilderment, you’ve already done the hardest part. Taking a step or two to help your loved one recover will be no big thing. You can do this. You can love them enough to be the change maker. Once you speak with an expert about treatment options, you’ll begin to see how it can be possible. Once you understand the twists and turns on the journey to sobriety, you’ll start to believe it can happen. No longer will you sit by and watch them commit suicide. We believe in you.
For most of the time, families live in reactionary mode to the addiction in the household. To take control, you must get to a proactive place, that is you must decide to take back peace. Because despite whether the addict will get help, the family can get better. There is no need for the family to live on a rollercoaster of emotional turmoil. Your peace of mind cannot be contingent on the health and happiness of the addict. You must find peace regardless of the choices the addict in your family makes.
Addicts act recklessly to get money for their habit. They may steal from stores, homes, cars or friends. They feel like if they don’t get high, they will die. So they’ll do anything to get cash. Consequences mean absolutely nothing. One addict explains, “I know what I’m doing is wrong, but I just don’t care. I just want to get high. I don’t want to go back to jail, but I keep doing things that will send me back there because of my addiction. Most people have things that they look forward to in life. I can’t think of a single one, besides maybe getting clean one day.” The attachment to their substance is the most important relationship in their life. Many will chase that relationship to the point of insanity or death. Addicts are commonly afraid they won’t make it through rehab. It’s scary for them to think about. If they’ve tried it in the past, they may be afraid that it will not work for them the next time.
But addicts can’t outsmart their addiction on their own. It’s as if the addiction is bigger, badder, and smarter than they are. People do it everyday. While in their addiction, they have a limited view of themselves and their future. But with the right help, there is hope of breaking free. Because after some time of clean living, they’ll see a whole new vision of themselves in a new life. The possibility of recovery becomes real to them. They may be angry, defiant, and terrified. But as long as they stay sober, they will learn how to walk through life. Give them roots and give them wings.
In the dark days, we may fear that they’ll overdose and die, or commit suicide from this disease. So we always want to protect them and keep them in our sight. You may be paying for their apartment, food, etc. The drugs are controlling everything they do. But the numbers don’t lie. If nothing is done, they will die. A barrier of arrogance cloaks your addict. And they have no clue how their choices affect others. They are blind and numb, while in their addiction.
While Sober, the addict in your family has endless possibilities.
But while using drugs or alcohol, their future is bound to 3 likely destinations:
Your family may be in crisis because on any given day, you don’t know if they are dead or alive. Don’t just watch them continue to die. The treatment centers know what they are doing. You want your loved one back. The way that they used to be. And they are very well worth it.
Imagine them real and alive again. Imagine sleeping well without the constant worry about where they are and what they are doing tonight. Your sense of denial and your absolute unwillingness to see what is right in front of you leads to failure in recovery. Just hoping that they stay clean and sober leads to failure in recovery. Your ability to “not see” what you don’t want to see, has allowed the situation to fester and grow out of control. You must commit to always see and accept what’s in front of you, not just what you want to see.
Is Addiction Contagious?
Although not medically transferable, it is not uncommon for siblings to escape through their own addiction. They may try drugs or alcohol to maintain a relationship with the addict. In the saddest of cases, this results in overdose or other dangerous outcomes. But family tragedies alone are still not enough to reform an addict. If the tragedies of others were enough to keep addicts from using, there would be no more addicts. The collateral damage caused by one addict is extensive. Between the lying, stealing, economic instability, and overall dysfunction, one addict typically harms the lives of 20 people.
It is the nature of the alcoholic or drug addict to be self-centered. They have no gratitude. How can they feel anything for others when the only item on their “to do” list, is to find and use their drug of choice? Family members feel sad that they are going through the addiction and just want them to get help. But why are they so hesitant to reach out and call for help? Because we think it’s going to be hard and a little scary, letting go of a sick child. Sending them off into an unknown place to be cared for by strangers? But we have to. They need it and they deserve it.
Are You Enabling Addiction?
You’re trying to keep them safe. But is this the week they die from overdosing on drugs with the money you gave them?
“Why didn’t I see it”? Is a very common phrase among parents of addicts. Parents are usually the last to know about the extent of their child’s drug use or addiction. Your sense of denial and your unwillingness to see what is right in front of you, has allowed the situation to fester and grow out of control. You must commit to always see and accept what’s in front of you, not just what you want to see.
Are you a grandparent? Is the addict your child who has children of their own? No doubt, the grandchildren are suffering. Do you wonder if the kids are too young to notice that mom or dad have a problem? Many therapists agree that young children see and know much much more than we generally expect. They are bound to have some memories of the period, even from when under the age of 6. Have you ever considered the future of those children if the addict never gets help?
As a mom or dad of an addict, you may even feel like a failure. “I know I am enabling him, but yet I’m powerless to stop. I just don’t know what else to do.” But while you coddle them, you only keep them from truth. And truth is the only thing that allows addicts to change. You have to be just as willing to make a change, as they are. While you might be hoping for them to become a different person, you have to be ready to become a different person towards them. You may think you know what you have to do next to protect them from harm, but your caretaking will avail you nothing.
Your loved one may have gone from being a highly functioning adult to acting more like a child or teen. They may seem mad at the world. If they walk all over you, it’s because you allow it. Their temper tantrums can be intimidating. They may punch the wall or scream. It’s common to be hesitant to clamp down and set real boundaries, for fear it will set them off in a rage. People tend to act in ways which have served them in the past. Addicts are no different. If flying off the handle helped them bulldoze your boundaries last month, they are likely to do it again when they see new boundaries. Ironically, if you are enabling, you are meeting your own needs, not the addict’s needs.
But what are the consequences of continuing your habit of leniency? Did you ever consider that it is more loving to not tolerate it? Some parents give their addicted child over $500 a month, while allowing them to stay in the house, come and go as they please, and even drive the family car while impaired. Allowing this behavior, seems to the parent, like the only way to keep peace in the household. But you know deep down that you are facilitating the addict’s own destruction.
The root problem is the vast misunderstanding between the family members and the addict. Each seeks understanding from the other, which neither can provide.
The addict will never get better until the enabler does. The loving thing to do, is to set boundaries. Tell them, “We have expectations. We are raising the bar for you. From now on, you are either in treatment, or you are out looking for work, or you are in school.
It’s got to finally start to matter to you. If the addict is your son or daughter, they already mean the world to you. Do you feel like you are holding on tighter and tighter, because they are slipping farther and farther away? Your desire to be liked, gets in the way of your ability to be the parent. You’ve survived some very difficult years, but at this time there has to be some separation. So that they can find themselves with you as the parent, not as the buddy.
Parents often think they can “reason” with the addict to their way of thinking. It may be all you know. And although you mean well, lecturing the addict is the perfect waste of time. Your caretaking personality is stunting their growth to become autonomous. The addict cannot learn how to live their life from the parent. If they could, it would have been learned by now. It’s time to take a new direction. The old ways are over. Your purpose can’t be to take care of them. Your purpose must be to take care of yourself.
Relatives of addicts often don’t talk among themselves about the problem. Be supportive of other members in your family. They have all been affected by the addiction, just as you have.
Going to Rehab is much more than just getting someone off drugs or alcohol. It’s about teaching them how to live their life sober, and be proud of themselves again. For addicts, there is no change generally, because they stay comfortable in their habit of addiction. But it’s in the discomfort that we grow. Going to treatment provides structure and requires the addict to be accountable. Good treatment keeps them uncomfortable. During this time, the addict must look at difficult issues, like all the pain that they’ve caused others. They uncover the compelling reasons they must stay sober, all while keeping them safe and contained. Addicts are broken. And they need to be willing to be put back together.
Their Cure Starts With You, the Family Member
Your hunch is right. Your addicted relative is not likely to read this article or seek information about the pathway to sobriety. So their future may lie in your own actions. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. If nothing changes, nothing changes. Addiction is progressive. It will not get better on its own. It will continue to get worse without treatment.
But you can overcome this. There’s probably been no peace or beauty in your life for a long time. Within a family, you can’t just keep waiting for the other to take the first step to recovery.
Deep down the addict knows that something is really wrong with them, and they don’t respect themselves. They just wish somebody would stop them.
So, Parent-up! Spouse-up! Brother and sister-up! If the only way to find change is to try something new, why is it so hard? It’s been a long and painful journey to get where you are. Let today be the start of a miracle. Yogi Berra once said, “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.” On the quest to sobriety, there is a bed for your loved one. Take it.
Claim Recovery. Claim a new Life. Let today be the start of a miracle. Call the Helpline today. One year from now, you could be saying it’s been 365 days since the day it all changed.
By Taking These Actions, You Can Have a Brighter Tomorrow.
- Call for Help. Connect with a rehab admissions expert to learn about treatment options, facilities, transport, insurance coverage, and any other questions. Once you can envision their journey for their sobriety, convincing them to take that path will be easier. Many of these facilities are located in peaceful and beautiful surroundings. The new start offers renewed hope and optimism for the future.
- Commit to changing your own enabling behavior. Set those boundaries hard, make those ultimatums, and carry them out. Learn about interventions.
- Attend Support group meetings with the above support groups for families of addicts. Hearing from others with similar struggles, will empower you with deeper understanding. Find a friend or family member to go to along to the meetings.
- Change the addict’s living arrangements. If they return home from rehab and pick up where they left off with the same friends and surroundings, their likelihood of relapse skyrockets. And if they are over 21, they really have no business living at home with their folks. Stay vigilant in your own behavior and the boundaries you set for them. It’s one thing to get an addict to treatment, it’s another to keep them in recovery. You’ve come a long way, don’t stumble near the finish line.