How Families Can Recover From Addiction Together
One of the saddest things about addiction is what it does to everyone around the addict, not just the addict as an individual. For loved ones, watching the addict’s bad choices and self-inflicted damage is both painful and exhausting – if not also dangerous to them as well. Family and friends are forced to walk the fine line between caring for the addict and not getting drawn into their self-destructive spiral.
If this sounds like a situation with which you are currently dealing, we think these suggestions might help.
How You Can Help Your Loved One Recover From Addiction
Learn About Both Addiction and Recovery: To be as supportive as possible, you should know as much as possible about the disease that is addiction, and also the process that your loved one will go through as they recover from their addiction. For instance, addiction and abuse are not the same thing: abuse begins because a person develops a tolerance for something, and they need to take larger-than-normal doses to continue getting the same effect. Addiction, on the other hand, describes the chemical dependency that a person’s body develops for a certain substance. Their body is convinced that it needs the substance in order to function properly (and in some cases this becomes true).
“Choosing the right recovery option is an important part of the process, and will enhance the odds of preventing a relapse.”
Recovery describes the entire process of removing drugs or alcohol from a person’s body, then helping them develop the personal and mental fortitude to resist the temptation of using the substance in the future. This is an open-ended process. There are different stages of treatment, but addiction is generally considered a disease that a person will have to fight against for the rest of their lives. There are many different approaches to recovery, all of which have their strengths and weaknesses. Choosing the right recovery option is an important part of the process, and will enhance the odds of preventing a relapse.
Embrace the Changes That Support Recovery: Likely, you have been through a great deal already in supporting your friend or loved one as they battle addiction. You may, at times, wish that things could just go back to being the way they were. This is completely natural and understandable, but remember that your old life, either by design or by accident, encouraged your loved one’s addictive behavior. The only way to move past this is to create a whole new life, where substance abuse is not normalized. You will want to consider what triggers might exist in your environment that would either cause the addict stress and lead to substance abuse, or in some way make them wish for their old life. One of the most important changes you will want to make is finding new ways to unwind and have fun. Your loved one probably relied a great deal on their addiction to meet their need for relaxation; alternatives will have to be identified. Experimenting with new, enjoyable, sober pastimes can be a great deal of fun though, and an incredible bonding experience for you and your friend or family member.
Discover How to Set Firm, Healthy Boundaries: Boundaries improve the health and well-being of any group or family unit, and are especially needed when someone is recovering from addiction. In the past, you may have made excuses or covered up for the addict’s behavior, enabling them to continue their addiction without the necessary consequences. You may want to seek professional help to do this, but whether you do or not you will need to establish clear limitations on the way you will and will not act in the future. Make no mistake, this will be difficult. It might be easier for you to think what you would do if your loved one was sick with a different disease. Would you let a friend or family member with cancer engage in harmful behavior? Then don’t let your addicted loved one do it either. Boundaries are for their own good, and yours as well.
How to Help Yourself as You Help Another Recover From Addiction
Self-Care Is Vital: The airline industry is famous for the reminder that, in the event of an emergency, you should put your own oxygen mask on before attempting to help anyone else. This same mind-set can be applied to other areas of your life, particularly when you are helping a friend recover from addiction. As much as you may want to take care of them, at the same time make sure that you are focused on getting enough rest, eating healthy, and exercising as well. If you are not healthy, it becomes more difficult for you to support someone else.
Allow Them to Take Responsibility for Themselves: Especially if the addict is a child or spouse, you may want to take the blame for their behavior on yourself. You should avoid this; you can’t control a person’s choice to become a user, nor can you force them to stop. The best you can do is be loving and supportive, while living your life as well as possible. Similarly, don’t work harder for their sobriety than they are. It may be difficult to watch, but they need to learn self-control, and the more you do for them the less they learn to rely on themselves. The best thing you can do for yourself and them is to seek support and professional help; there are groups for family and friends dealing with addiction, like Al-Anon, that understand this situation, and a counselor or therapist can help you deal with more personal issues.
The Three C’s All Supporters of Addicts Should Know: First, you are not the Cause of their addiction. Second, it is impossible for you to Control someone else’s addiction. Third, you cannot Cure their addiction. In the days to come, keep these in mind.
Links You May Find Useful
- al-anon.org: For friends and families of problem drinkers.
- nar-anon.org: For friends and families of addicts.
- gam-anon.org: For family members of gambling addicts.
- coda.org: For those who need help developing healthy relationships.
- adultchildren.org: A support group for adult children of drug and alcohol addicts.
Call Rehab-Finder.Org at 877-251-4813 to begin your, or a family member's process of moving beyond addiction.