Addiction affects not only the addict but their family as well. Addiction puts tremendous stress on all members of the family and evokes an array of emotions like fear, worry, anger, shame, guilt and frustration. Relationships are affected and change depending upon how the addiction affects each member of the family. The burdens of addiction will place more responsibility on some family members regarding finances, especially if the addict was the sole provider or one of them.
There are many things a family should know about addiction and their relationship with their loved one. Usually family members adapt to the addict and his addiction, making excuses for him and enabling him to continue his addiction. Enabling behavior that perpetuates addiction must be recognized and stopped. There are effective methods and interventions that a family can take to help a loved one get the professional help they need to get well. Here is a list of ten things you should or should not do if you think your loved one is an addict:
- Don’t treat addiction as a family disgrace. Addiction is a progressive disease that must be understood so that it can effectively be treated. Addiction has nothing to do with being weak-willed or immoral, and there are many factors that can cause addiction such as traumatic experiences, co-occurring mental or physical illness, genetics, chronic pain, etc. Try to obtain information about addiction through your physician, Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon etc.
- Don’t try to rescue your loved one from their addiction. He must experience the full consequences of his addiction to realize its destructive power over his life. Addicts usually have to hit rock bottom before they finally wake up and realize they have to change. Tough love allows your loved one to go through the devastation and awake from his stupor. Be strong and allow him to falter so that he can learn from his mistakes. Coddling him will only enable him to continue in his addiction, which will get progressively worse over time and may lead to dangerous outcomes.
- Do not enable addiction by offering financial assistance to your loved one. Don’t buy them food, pay their bills or loan them money. Without money to buy drugs or alcohol, most addicts will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms and that may prompt them to seek help.
- Don’t try to figure out why your loved one has this disease of addiction. Analysis often leads to placing blame on others and distracts from focusing on what is important. Leave the analysis up to the professionals who understand all aspects of addiction.
- Follow through on everything you say. If you tell your loved one that you will do something, don’t falter but do it. Let him know you mean business and you stand behind your words. Idle threats are a sign of weakness and are worthless in helping your loved one.
- An addict is powerless over their addiction until they get the professional help they need. They can make a million promises to you that they will quit using drugs or alcohol, but they will not be able to keep their promise. Trying to get your loved one to promise you that they will stop using is a waste of time and energy, and will only frustrate and anger you.
- A sick person cannot be threatened or intimidated to get well, so don’t preach, lecture or place guilt on your loved one.
- Most often a family member will become angry with the addict and express harsh words or make threats. After they have had time to calm down, their anger will dissipate and they will feel pity for the addict. This yoyo of emotions has a negative effect on the addict who will remember the harsh words and the emotions attached to them. Try to avoid getting overwhelmed by negative emotions.
- Don’t accommodate the addiction by locking up valuables, avoiding guests in the home or planning your day around the addict. The problem of addiction will take over the entire household if you allow it.
- Most often family members begin to neglect themself because their focus is on the addict and the addiction. You and your family should start to pay more attention to yourself and each other. Turn your attention back to your own health, jobs, hobbies, pleasures and activities. The addict may try to emotionally manipulate the family to start enabling him again by paying attention to him and his needs. Let him know that he will have to attend to his own needs.
Let your loved one know that there will be no more “business as usual” and when he is ready to get well you will assist him in finding the right rehab center. Fighting addiction by staying strong in your convictions should eventually lead your loved one to sobriety.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.