Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Does your loved one struggle with addiction? Here’s what you need to know.
Whether it’s your child, spouse, parent, sibling, or friend, one thing’s certain. If your loved one struggles with addiction, you will take it on. As a recovering addict who works with the addicted person’s family members, I see it all the time.
If only I’d… Why didn’t you… What did I do wrong?
Families blame themselves, and each other, for the addicted person’s choices and behaviour.
It’s this type of reaction that enables addiction.
If something is my fault. I need to fix it.
So I can feel better.
The addicted person uses substance to feel better, while the family members enable.
Enabling is a key aspect of addiction and substance abuse. The co-addict or primary enabler (the person who helps remove the natural consequences of the addicted person’s actions) feels they have an exclusive relationship with the addict. Of course they don’t. The addict’s exclusive relationship is with their drug of choice.
The enabler is unaware of their behaviours as they are ‘other’ focused, just as the addicted person is ‘self’ focused. Both will need to detox when making the necessary changes to move away from the unhealthy behaviours, of practiced addiction.
If you don’t believe enabling is mood-altering, just try to stop it.
You’ll be more than a little uncomfortable, while going through anxiety, stress, guilt, mood swings, sleeplessness, and mental obsession (thinking about the addicted person 24/7)
Just like a heroin user, the pain of detox will drive you back to the substance, or enabling behaviours, every time.
So then what can you do?
First and foremost, educate yourself. Learn what role you play. Attend a family program at a rehab facility. Learn all you can about the disease of addiction. If you don’t believe addiction is a disease, you will lapse back into trying to ‘fix’ it. Addiction is the same as cancer. Both can be terminal, if left untreated. Families shouldn’t play doctor with their addicted loved ones. Let the professionals do that.
Everything you require the addicted person to do, you will need to do, also. You are just as sick, as your addicted loved one. Some say, sicker. While they have been acting under a chemically influenced brain, the choices you were making, you made, sober.
Families need a support group. It will be extremely difficult for you to say no. The challenge in early recovery for the addicted person is learning how to stay abstinent and be honest. The challenge for the enabler is learning how to say no, and cope with the guilt. When you start setting boundaries and saying no, it’s going to get rocky, especially if the addicted person is still actively using.
Substance abusers use intimidating and aggressive behaviour, to get what they want. They don’t believe you, when you say no. Based on their past experience with you, no, just means they get louder, and then you will say yes.
Truthfully, there is no, NO, in an addict’s life. When I went to rehab I experienced no for the first time, ever. When you can’t manipulate your surroundings, then you learn the meaning of no.
No, is crucial, when recovering from addiction and codependency.
Addiction is about what I want. Recovery is about what I need. Both families and the addicted person will find themselves thinking, I don’t want to go to rehab. I don’t want to go to meeting. I don’t want to open up. I don’t want to reach out, or ask for help.
It’s impossible to recover from this illness; if you’re not prepared to do the work. It’s not about what you want to do. It’s about what you need to do. The relief you get from doing the work, will keep you coming back.
There will be set backs along the way. Be patient. Just as the addicted person and their family member didn’t get sick overnight, nor do they get better. It’s a process and entirely based on the work you’re willing to put into it.
Each party will need to recover separately from the other. I can’t use my recovering addicted person as my support, if I’m a family member. It would be like the blind, leading the blind.
Stay open, honest and willing. Recovery lives in transparency. While addiction hides in secrecy, isolation and denial.
Addiction is a genetic and environmental illness. Take a look at your relationship with mood-altering substances. Do you drink too much? Are you a workaholic? Is there something you’ve done, that you feel guilty about? When there’s addiction in the family, we all have to ask ourselves some difficult questions. If you’re not prepared to do the work, don’t ask the addicted person in your life to.
When dealing with addiction you’re either part of the problem, or part of the solution. There is no middle ground.
Addiction tears families apart. But there is hope. Recovery can bring us back together again.
For more information please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1 888 614-2379.
Best wishes, Lorelie Rozzano.