You must help yourself first to help those you love. On the mcadapt.com website you will find resources for helping yourself and a loved one through addiction.
7 Things you need to do to help your loved one with Addiction.
1. Understand that Addiction is a Disease.
Many people have an issue with identifying addiction as a disease, so let’s just look at what the dictionary says about the word disease.
Disease- (1) A disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, esp. one that produces specific signs or symptoms. (2) A particular quality, habit, or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people.
Just as a person does not choose to get diabetes, kidney stones, or even cancer, a person does not choose to become an addict. Just as the body can be predisposed to having one of these diseases it can also be predisposed to addiction. Some believe a person is not born an addict, but rather they make a choice to use a drug and become an addict. This opinion is only partially correct. Some people have the predisposition to be an addict once the first drug or drink is introduced. That starts a chain reaction, an allergy of sorts that causes that person to have “cravings” and mental obsessions for and about the drug or drink. The same can be said for a person who has developed lung cancer from smoking. They were not born with the lung cancer but once the first cigarette was introduced, they were headed down a path towards lung cancer. Now think of diabetes and the medication, diet, and exercise used to treat the disease. Once a person’s diabetic condition is under control the person should not stop the medication, diet, and exercise. In order for this person to control this disease, treatment is still required. The same is to be said for addiction. Once a person has completed detox and rehab the treatment needs to continue to keep the addiction under control.
2. Educate yourself
If you have a family member with diabetes, kidney stones, or cancer, you would educate yourself on each of the diseases. You would not want to do things that would make their condition worse. You would want to know everything you could about the treatment. You would want to know the success rates of that treatment. You need to think of addiction in the same way. Make sure you have done your homework. Treat the addiction from your end even if the addict has not gotten treatment yet.
3. Take Responsibility for your Role in the Addiction
So many times family members are under the impression that if the addict seeks help then the family will be perfect. This is an illusion. We as family members don’t realize that we have become sick and dysfunctional as well while we were dealing with our loved one’s addiction. Honestly, unless you have totally removed yourself from your loved one and cut off all lines of communication it is next to impossible for you not to have played some part in the addiction. Whether you are financially supporting the addict and their addiction, or you have bailed them out of jail and trouble, allowed them to steal from you with no consequences, covered for them with their job or other loved ones, tried to keep up outside appearances so that no one knew your family was dealing with addiction, we have all played some part in the addiction. After all isn’t that what families do? We aren’t supposed to air out our dirty laundry in public. We are supposed to support each other right? Sometimes as the family member we have a hard time looking at our part, but unless we do and become honest with ourselves we will repeat those mistakes and continue the dysfunctional cycle. We can be part of the problem or become part of the solution.
4. Attend Support Meetings
Now that we have identified that we as family need help as well, we need to get support and help. We find that support and help through meetings that are specifically geared to help family members of addicts. Alcoholics and addicts attend Alcoholic Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Family members have a support group called Al-anon. In these meetings we are taught how to deal with the addiction in a healthy way. We also find out that we are not alone. We hear stories from other families just like ours. We learn how to find peace and serenity even when the addiction is raging in our household. Educating yourself is part of the process. Most recovered alcoholics and addicts will tell you they were forced to find help when their family found Al-anon.
Click for local support meetings.
5. Close your checkbook
You will learn through Al-anon about some enabling behaviors that you probably didn’t realize you had. One of those bad behaviors involves your checkbook. Nearly all family members have handed out money in some form or another. Most addicts are very manipulative and convincing of their financial need. What many view as helping, is actually hurting. It can be very difficult to not help someone you love, but you can literally love someone to death. Statistics show that our loved ones addiction leads to prison or the grave. How many of you are reading this saying “I don’t give money, I buy their groceries or buy their clothes and give it to them.” Often enough, you’re just fooling yourself if you think they didn’t trade or sell those things for what they really wanted. Close your checkbook! Don’t be an enabler. It won’t be easy and will not feel normal. But in the long-term it is necessary. Remember to seek your support group and work on this area in your life. Share your experience; you won’t be the first in your group who has gone through this process.
6. Continue Family functions as Usual
So many times we isolate because of guilt and shame over our loved ones addiction. This is another common family pitfall. We won’t take family pictures if the addict is not there, because we can’t bear to not have them be part of the picture. We won’t have family dinners because we know that our loved one will not be present. We won’t go to family reunions because we don’t want people asking us questions on where that person is or how they are doing. We in a sense are living our life in a prison. We lock ourselves away from other family members and just focus on the addict and their issues. We become consumed by the addiction ourselves. We want to fix it but we don’t know how. We become weaker and weaker and fall deeper and deeper into this black hole of our loved ones addiction. We as well as the rest of our family members NEED the socialization from outside the four walls of chaos. Those of you that live with an alcoholic or addict understand what the word chaos truly means. Our life and the rest of our family’s life need some normal activities that don’t revolve around the addict or addiction. So, continue family functions as usual.
7. Take Care of Yourself
So many times we give so much of ourselves to the addiction, that we feel we have nothing left to give. We want to take care of our loved one and we want desperately for them to be better again. Often we forget about taking care of ourselves. In order for you to help yourself as well as your loved one you must first take care of yourself. This doesn’t just mean physically. You must take care of yourself mentally and spiritually. The road of addiction is often long and very bumpy. If we are to travel this road we must be healthy if we want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Below are a few articles that you might find helpful if someone in your family is suffering from addiction.
OTHER RESOURCES FOR THE FAMILY: