The focus of drug abuse is generally on the addicted individual and those that enable their addiction, but there are many people that suffer a great deal an individual’s disease: the families of the addicted loved one. One person that is struggling with addiction can disrupt an entire family. It leaves it broken and vulnerable, desperate and exposed. Recovery is the one tool that can piece together and heal the family.
Why Don’t They Just Quit?
When there is even one addiction in the family, there is a long process that must be gone through before the struggle is over. At first, when the red flags of addiction start to reveal themselves, the family often sees the symptoms as a phase that will be grown out of. If it persists, they may begin to realize there’s a very real problem, but will often neglect to bring it up. It may be months or even years of abuse before the subject is ever brought up, and even then, when family members will try to talk and reason with the person, few understand that their loved one is past conversation. Their son, daughter, father, or mother is listening to cravings, not to logic. It takes the most human thing of all, emotion and compassion, to break through.
Addiction Hurts the Whole Family, Not Just One Person
Addictions cause people to do things they would never think of doing if they weren’t abusing drugs, and it brings out the worst in everyone. The family may come to the point where they don’t even know this person anymore. Family gatherings and holidays can never be the same when one of the family members has an addiction. This causes fights and shouting, Why come at all if you’re going to come late and high? It sows distrust, as mothers pull their purses closer when their son sits next to them at dinner. It leads to uncomfortable situations and more than one late night call to come get them, from a seedy neighborhood or from behind bars.
Every phone call, every siren, and every knock on the door is agonizing, as any family fears hearing the news that no one ever wants to hear. The family is in a vicious cycle that they cannot control. Some family members will walk away, defeated, but most will stay around and try to solve the problem themselves. The truth is, those with addictions are the only ones who can only fix their addiction, and that is the hardest part of this journey. Understanding they have a problem and that they need help is the most intimidating aspect of this struggle. This is true for both the person with addiction and the family.
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How Do I Get Them Help?
It is not always enough to simply have the addicted person admitted into treatment. Some addicted individuals will leave treatment early of their own accord; some will relapse when they complete the program. This often leads family members to believe that if treatment didn’t resolve the addiction, it is incapable of working at all. However, in truth, the person with the addiction must seek out sobriety on their own accord. They must come to realize they have a problem, and that they are hurting those around them.
Treating addiction requires all members in the family to work together. Recognize who is enabling the addiction. Those that lie for their loved one, give rides and money, and make excuses on their behalf are often doing it out of love, but unknowingly accommodate for the person’s addiction. No family has room for addiction, but through enabling, a family member allows the addiction to continue. Of course, enabling does not come from malicious intent, it comes from love. However, the effects are often the exact opposite of the desired outcome, as the family member with the addiction has the means to continue their lifestyle.
Family is the Key to Sobriety
Interventions have been shown, time and time again, to be one of the most effective ways to help a family member realize they need help. What the mind refuses to let in, the heart will. Showing the damage, the addiction is doing to the family is one of the few ways to reach out to someone whose behavior is driven by their cravings. Letting someone with an addiction know that they cannot be accommodated anymore, informing them of their selfishness, showing how they’ve hurt those that love them, and offering one last hand in understanding and compassion is one of the only ways to help someone out of the sinkhole that is substance abuse. It is this understanding that they are loved, and that drugs are eroding at their love, that drives change in the heart.
Love is not always comfortable, and it will hurt to be honest. It will hurt even more if they believe they love their addiction more than their family. However, it is through this process that a resolution becomes a possibility. Someone with an addiction will continue to behave in a hurtful way unless something comes between them and their next high. This could mean jail, this could mean overdose, or it could even mean something worse. It is up to the family to confront their loved one in a proper intervention, to be more honest with them, and to avoid enabling their behavior that someone with an addiction can achieve their first moment of sobriety.