Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
6 Things You Can Do To Help Your Addicted Loved One.
Although it’s natural to want to focus on the person using drugs, the truth is, everyone in the family is affected. Addiction is a brain disease that responds well to treatment, however, most individuals deny they’re sick and fight the idea of getting help. So what can you do when your loved one is sick and deteriorating before your very eyes?
Actually, there’s a lot you can do. But it doesn’t start with them, it starts, with you. Below are 6 suggestions that not only give your addicted loved one the best chance at recovery, but they’ll also keep you sane and healthy!
1) Learn everything you can about addiction and the family disease. This illness is manipulative and cunning. It thrives in isolation and secrecy. Break the silence by attending meetings and/or support groups. Engage in a step study. Learn what role you play in your loved ones, addiction. When an addict is aware of their own issues and has to face them, recovery can and does occur. Your actions towards your loved one must encourage them to examine themselves and realize there is a problem. If you’re shielding them from the consequences of their actions, this won’t happen. Instead the addicted person and their family will continue to spiral out of control by justifying and making excuses for unhealthy and immoral behaviour, leaving the entire family system toxic and unable to think clearly.
2) Go to treatment before them. You might think this is a strange idea but if your loved one is resistant to seeking help, you seek help. In attending a family program not only will you learn what does and doesn’t work, you’ll have the support to follow through with the changes you need to make going forward. This proactive approach sends a powerful message…There’s no shame in getting well!
3) Learn to set boundaries. I recently worked with a young woman who had stolen a substantial amount of money from her parents’ business. She was refusing to go to group or lecture, and was rather smug about it. She dared anyone to ‘do something about it.’ Her parents were at their wits end and had reached the point where they were willing to play hard ball with her defiance and set boundaries. Although they’d threatened consequences before, they’d never followed through with them. The young woman refused to participate in treatment, and wanted to leave. She was told if she left, the police would be called. In spite of her parents begging her, she refused to listen. She called a taxi and left. Luckily for her she got to experience those consequences and is now safe inside a sheriff’s cell instead of possibly overdosing on her next high. She, like many other addicts, has no concept of boundaries or the meaning of no. No addict will recover without experiencing consequences, boundaries or learning what no means.
4) Involve professionals. If you feel guilty every time you say no, then you’re saying yes to ease your guilt. In a sense you’re doing exactly what your addicted loved one is doing. Your mood altering by avoiding uncomfortable emotions and thus, enabling. Avoiding painful feelings is not a reason to enable the addict in your family. By involving a professional they can help you stay the course when the going gets tough, because it will. Your addicted loved one is used to getting their way by manipulating and bullying you. When you begin to say no, their behaviour is going to get worse, not better. Teaching your addicted loved one what you will and will not put up with, is crucial. If they can treat you with disrespect their brain tells them, you deserve to be treated that way.
5) Identify the weak link in your family. In every family there is one person who is more easily manipulated by the addict, than the rest of their family members. To identify the weak leak in your family ask yourself this; who is it the addicted person calls when they’re in trouble? Who has the most trouble saying no? It’s important to note that this person is likely as sick as the addicted individual and may need an intervention to stop their enabling behaviors. Addiction can’t thrive without an enabling system. When the primary enabler believes they’re helping they will continue to rescue and save resulting in a crippling, dependent and dysfunctional relationship with the addicted person.
6) Take good care of you. Above all else take good care of you. Addiction is exhausting and one on one it wins every time. Learn how to hit the pause button. Unless the house is on fire, you should never be forced into making a split decision. Addicts want their requests to be met now! If you’re being pressured into doing something you don’t want to do, what’s really happening is the addict wants their next fix. By saying ‘I need to think about it,’ you will buy time to involve other people in the conversation and ultimately, make a healthier choice.
The most important thing to remember, is never give up hope. If you feel overwhelmed by doing any of the 6 things above, imagine how your sick loved one must feel? The best role model your addicted loved one has, are the people in their life who are willing to lead by example.
Helpful Links for Family and Friends of Addicts
Al-Anon.org (al-anon.org) for family members of alcoholics.
Nar-anon (nar-anon.org) for family members of addicts.
Gam-anon (gam-anon.org) for family members of gamblers.
Coda.org (coda.org) for co-dependent individuals.
Adultchildren.org (adultchildren.org) for adult children of alcoholics and addicts.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1 888 614-2379.