Addiction doesn’t just affect those who are abusing drugs or alcohol, it affects everyone around them as well. When a family member becomes an addict, it is often hard to know the right thing to say or how to act around them.
But there are things you can do to help your loved one and yourself during this critical time.
Take Care of Yourself
When a loved one is living with substance dependency, much focus and attention is given to their disease and their recovery. But it’s important that YOU take time for your self-care, too.
Allow yourself to feel your feelings. It is your right to feel anger, sadness and even resentment toward your loved one. This is a natural, human response to having been mistreated, taken advantage of, and used. Sadness is the natural evolutionary result of having experienced a loss of some kind. And never feel guilty about living your own life and enjoying hobbies and time spent with friends.
Peer support groups like Al-Anon will put you in touch with others who know exactly what you’re going through. Attending group meetings can help you understand the disease of addiction and the challenges that your family faces, as well as give you hope that things can get better.
Don’t Make Excuses for Their Behavior
Addiction to drugs or alcohol results in two things: poor behavior and memory loss. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol can cause discernable memory changes after just one or two drinks. The more people drink, the more they forget. Some drugs work in the same way. This memory loss makes it difficult for the addict to know and feel the consequences of their behavior.
Addiction often causes problems for the addict. You might be tempted to fix these problems, but doing so can hinder your loved one’s recovery. Refusing to enable your loved one is one of the single best things you can do for them. Often times, we have to get to a very uncomfortable place before we can truly become committed to change. Enabling your addicted loved one prolongs their journey to that point.
Don’t Offer Drugs or Alcohol to Your Loved One
This seems obvious, but people who have substance abuse issues often use language that confuses their loved ones. For instance, someone with an alcohol addiction is celebrating their birthday and thinks it’s okay for them to have one beer to “celebrate.” “Come on, just one beer… it’s my birthday!” An addict with a “splitting headache” may insist they be given a Vicodin instead of Tylenol.
Family members must understand that addictions are brain disorders and the addict is incapable of moderating their use. When they have access to their substance of choice, they will take full advantage.
Get Professional Help
Substance abuse is, without question, a disease, and without professional help, your loved one may not recover. While there are things you can do to support your loved one on their road to recovery, your family will need counseling from a trained therapist.
If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment for substance abuse, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.