Drug addiction and alcoholism are family diseases. An individual who is addicted to drugs or alcohol might protest that he is only hurting himself and that he should be left alone, but all families that have dealt with an addicted family member know that the truth is exactly the opposite. An alcoholic or drug addict devastates his own life and creates stress, disharmony, anxiety, and anger among the family member who are inevitably trying to help him. Families often need more assistance in coping with an addicted family member than the addict himself needs to break away from his alcohol or drug habit.
Addiction in the Family
At the outset, family members need to understand and remember that just as they did not cause the addiction, neither can they control or cure it by themselves. The disease pattern of drug addiction and alcoholism will often cause the addict to deny his own responsibility for his problems and instead to shift the blame for those problems into some family dysfunction or other dynamic. Families that assume responsibility for an addiction will devolve into finger-pointing and blame shifting with no effort being placed on finding a cure for the underlying addiction. Regardless of how hard they try, families will not be able to control an addict’s actions because by the time addiction sets in, those actions will be fully controlled by a craving for drugs or alcohol.
How Families Can Help with Addiction
Families can help the addict by learning as much as they can about his problems and the substances he is abusing. Several family support groups are available to help families to cope with this problem, and family members should not refrain from searching for one or more of those groups. Families also need to maintain as normal a lifestyle as is possible without shutting the addict out of family gatherings and events. If one or two family members are not on board with a family’s attempts to help the addict, those family members should be encouraged to participate in whatever coping and support activities have been suggested for the family.
To alleviate their own stress of coping with an addict, family members need to address their own regular needs. Family members should continue to attend regular outside activities, to exercise, and to maintain their own social connections. Your family may face judgment and condemnations from third parties who do not understand what is happening in your family. An addict’s or alcoholic’s family members can use this experience to educate third parties on the problems of addiction and to advocate for better addiction recovery systems. In this way, families can look for ways to draw something positive out of what is often a painful and trying experience.
Addiction is a Family Disease
Above all else, family members need to do whatever they can to refrain from enabling an addict’s drug or alcohol habits. Family members might help an addict to procure drugs or alcohol on the misplaced belief that doing so will reduce the addict’s problems and his pain. This is an easy but ineffective means to address a problem, however, and it only makes the problem worse instead of curing it.
If a member of your family is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction and you are concerned over the effect of that addiction on your family, please contact the counselors and therapists at the Last Resort Recovery Center (near Austin, Texas) at 512-360-3600 for assistance and counseling. We have helped countless families to work through addiction problems that are harming one or more of their family members and we are ready and able to provide the same assistance to you.