Families can be harmed by the consequences of addictive behaviors. Exposure to addiction may increase ease of access and risk of addiction in other family members. An addicted members unexpected limitations in function is a loss and causes non addicted members to shift roles and adjust to the loss which adds to stress and instability.
Families may accept addictive behaviors as a fact of life when addiction is multi generational. These families isolate themselves as a defense mechanism because of the shame which causes denial and failure to recognize the addiction and its effect on the family. Isolation also limits the family to healthier role models.
Often Addiction is about what the substance or behavior is covering up. It is about the pain that the substance or behavior is providing relief for ultimately destroying families and relationships for generations. The pain is usually deep unhealed wounds and fears. This means healing the wounds and fears is a good start to overcoming addiction.
When you learn that your loved one is struggling with addiction, you first inclination is to save them. However, the truth of the matter is the only person that can save themselves from the addiction is the addict themselves. Your loved one will have to want to heal. We can’t chose for them. They have to chose themselves. It hurts to watch your loved one destroy their own life but it is their own life.
How many of you have heard words like “I will get off the drug or stop the addictive behavior soon?”
These words you will hear long before your loved one has decided to change. These words are used to keep you hanging onto some hope that they will change so you can get off their back and not withdraw your support.
Change will not happen for your loved one until they see that the addiction is wrong and the harm of their addiction outweighs the benefit of their addiction. So how do you help your loved one overcome their addiction?
First, release the need to control their life for the sake of your own happiness. The sad reality is nothing you do or say will change their behavior. They have decide on their own to stop. This was a wake up call for me as i realized the need to control my loved one’s life caused much discord and conflict. I thought my happiness dependent on their being sober. But i realized happiness is not outside of ourselves but within.
Remember the motivation behind the addiction is often to find relief from their pain. They are not engaging in the addiction to hurt you.
Learn to release words like “If I only knew their pain maybe they would not have picked up the drug?”
This guilt does not benefit your loved ones healing. Blaming yourself shifts the responsibility from your loved one to you and blocks their ability to heal because healing starts with accepting responsibility.
Second, find support. Sometimes you will have friends who may not be capable of helping you if they are not experienced in caring for a loved one who is struggling with addiction. Professional support groups like Al-Alon are available to help families identify behaviors that enable a solution instead of enabling the addiction, release control and teach you to take better care of your self.
Behaviors that enable your loved one’s addiction might be providing money. Your loved one will use the money to engage in the addictive activity. This means the money is fueling their addiction. However, when you provide a consequence for engaging in the addiction, it becomes harder for your loved one to engage in the behavior. So withdrawing your enabling behavior will help your loved one see the harm of their addiction is bigger than the benefit which shifts them closer to the realization to change. Perceived harm of the addiction has to outweigh the benefit for your loved one to begin desire for change.
Now withdrawing enabling behaviors will feel bad to you because your thinking is distorted. You may be thinking but i am their loved one and shouldn’t let them fall or if i don’t enable them, they will not love me anymore. But know in your heart, withdrawing enabling behavior is what will help your loved one ultimately. Shift thru your own fears and hurts in order to do whats right for your loved one. Prioritize your self care because you can not help anyone if you are not healthy yourself.
This is why support groups will and can be there for you to employ behaviors that enable the solution instead of the problem. They are trained to deal specifically with loving someone who is struggling with addiction. You are not alone. It is crucial to have support. Other support groups include Alateen, Alatot, Tough Love and Families Anonymous.
Third, learn about the addiction your loved one is struggling with. Your awareness of their illness will cultivate understanding and compassion. Education also prevents you from being blindsided with their behaviors. Arming yourself with education about their addiction will help you anticipate their behaviors and plan for them. This will help you to not take their behaviors personally and help them from a place of clarity instead of confusion. Understand that addiction is a brain disease and the addiction has truly undermined your loved ones judgment. It may take a long time for your loved one to realize the need for change but a moment will come when they reach a breaking point. Do not nag, criticize or lecture your loved one. This is detrimental to your loved ones healing. Do not engage in addiction yourself or your loved one will think you are being hypocritical.
Therapy and Medication
Finally, seeking therapy to get at the root cause of the addiction and learn alternative ways to cope with stress as well as medication to help reduce craving and heal the damage in the brain that the addictive activity or drug has caused will get your loved one onto the path of recovery. It is possible to be happy, productive and drug free.