12 Survival Steps for the Families of Addicts
Helping a family member who is suffering from addiction to drugs or alcohol is nothing short of a minefield. There are cluster bombs of unmanageable emotions, both theirs and yours and an endless push and pull between right and wrong and fact and fiction. It’s pretty exhausting being an addict so it’s hardly surprising the family gets drawn into the cyclone and drained by it too.
- Face Reality
If you have ever spent time with anyone who is addicted you will notice that it becomes really easy to get drawn into their denial. Their rationalisation, minimalisations and justifications can seem utterly plausible, especially as they deliver their pontifications from a place of total commitment.
These may include things like: why they need to borrow money, promising to get clean tomorrow, they are not that bad, you would use if your life was like theirs or when the circumstances of life are perfect, they will stop. There are literally thousands of variations on these themes which will always be delivered with great conviction.
As the loved one of an addict you must face the reality even if they cannot. You probably live in constant fear and worry about what the next episode of madness will bring. And the disease of addiction always gets worse. It is chronic and progressive.
- Accept Your Powerlessness
If the addict is powerless over their behaviour so you are absolutely powerless over them and their addiction. The addict or alcoholic are ruled by the substances that they are consuming and in many ways are not in control of what is happening in their lives. How can you try and control the uncontrollable?
- Don’t Shame Your Addict
The addict in your life is in the midst of the shame cycle of addiction. Trying to make them feel guilty about the things that they have done is not helpful. Most addicts and alcoholics feel guilty and shameful about their using and associated behaviour and this often stops them from getting into recovery. Be straightforward and non-judgemental in your interactions.
- Rebuild Your Life
Make sure that you have a full and rich life of your own and that you are not dominated in all areas by the addict. The continuing and varied chaos, both internal and external, created by addiction can be really all-consuming for family members.
Looking after yourself mentally and emotionally is hugely important. How can you expect to be of any use to an addicted loved one if you are exhausted in all areas of your life?
- Don’t Enable
What is happening to them is not your fault and it is not your problem to solve. The addict needs to face up to their responsibilities and they need to be allowed to find their consequences. Facing the results of their addiction helps people into recovery even though these often look painful.
Family members ride the rollercoaster of desperation and fear alongside the addict and they are the ones that really feel what is going on because the addict or alcoholic is protected by the mental mist of their denial.
- Look at your Part
This might sound crazy because they are the ones with the problem whose behaviour is not acceptable. It is very important to exercise good self-awareness around your addict and their problem. The tendency is to get too involved and try and save them from themselves. This self-examination helps keep a check on anger, blaming and shaming as well as enabling.
- Don’t keep trying to fix it
Actually, by stepping back, the family can empower the addict to take responsibility for their lives and their actions. It might not happen straight away and sometimes not at all but when you’ve tried everything else this is a risk you take. Don’t take away valuable opportunities for the addict in your family to build their self-esteem. Don’t keep running in there to save them, this is insanity, especially when you begin to realise that this does not pre-empt them getting clean.
- Have Healthy Boundaries
Set boundaries that keep you and the rest of our family safe and stick to them no matter what. It may feel really wrong but you have to learn a different way to love your addict.
- Don’t Manipulate or be Manipulated
The temptation is to fight fire with fire and this is a flawed plan from the start. How can you expect to be treated with respect if you are not modelling esteem-able behaviour? Keep your integrity and refuse to be drawn into defective patterns of behaviour.
- Learn About Different Treatment Options
There are many different options for treatment of addiction and alcoholism. Learn as much as you can about the disease concept and the way that this is dealt with medically and psychologically. Being armed with information empowers you in the face of a very difficult situation.
- Attend Al-Anon or Families Anonymous
Detaching with love is one of the cornerstones of the Al-Anon program, the 12 Step philosophy for the relatives and friends of the addicted.
If you want the addict to attend an inpatient rehab centre, then employ their intervention services. There are some very systematic, proven ways of getting addicts to engage with treatment services.
- Let Go and Let the Experts
Once you have managed to check your loved one into rehab have faith in the establishment that you have chosen and be guided by their team. If they have a family program, enrol, this can be a healing process for both the addict and their family.
If you or a family member needs help to stop using drugs or alcohol call one of our experts and find out how we can help call free-phone Australia only 1800 288 348 or +61 3 980 45757.