Help For Families Coping with Addiction
For every person in active addiction, research shows that seven people are directly affected. And more often than not, it’s the families who have the heaviest burden in coping with those struggling with substance abuse issues and addiction. Family members often suffer as much, if not more than, the person who is dependent on a substance or behaviour that is making their lives unmanageable.
Millions of people all over the world suffer from the disease of addiction and most of these people have family members whose wish is that their loved ones get well. Families play a large role in the process of recovery from behavioral and alcohol and other drug addictions, so it’s vital for parents and partners, brothers and sisters, children and friends, to understand how to help.
If you have a family member struggling with addiction, you may want to know how to deal with it or support your loved one, and how to go about finding support yourself.
Addiction doesn’t discriminate – it can happen to anyone – it even appears in families made up of loving, highly functioning people.
Addiction takes many forms: it can involve drugs, alcohol, prescription medications or behaviors such as gambling, sexual compulsion, food, shopping or internet addiction.
Research shows that when addiction develops, family members and friends are also often directly impacted. As well as taking action to help your family member get help, it’s important that families coping with substance abuse get help for themselves.
It’s vital that family members and friends learn as much about addiction as they can, and how to take care of their own health. This helps you provide the love and support the addicted person needs in order to recover and heal.
Remember what you hear before take-off on a flight: put your own oxygen mask on first before you help the person beside you. If you’re in no shape yourself, you won’t be any good to the one you need to help.
Some Ways You Can Help
Learn about Addiction
Knowledge is power. If you’re well-informed about the disease of addiction you’ll be less inclined to blame the addict. You will learn that instead of thinking they should ‘just stop’, you’ll understand it’s not about being weak, or wilful or stubborn.
It will be useful to understand how addiction is a no-fault illness and develops when the brain changes as a result of using drugs or repeating addictive behaviors (gambling, sex, shopping for example).
Addiction is not a choice and understanding this may be able to help you let go of anger and resentment. Nobody ever grows up wanting to be an addict. They didn’t choose to have an addiction.
Join a Support Group
Connecting with peers is helpful, especially if they attend long-established and trusted programs such as Al-Anon, Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) or Alateen.
These programs are there to help people coping with substance abuse in their family. They provide a safe, non-judgmental place where family members can learn about, discuss and cope with an addiction in their home.
Learning how to open up and share about the consequences of your family member’s addiction is helpful. You may have suffered consequences of your loved one’s addiction or your health may be suffering as a result.
You may have had a difficult time sharing about the behavior that’s harming you, so you’ve said nothing. Some family members even blame themselves for the addiction, or blame the addicted person for their unhappiness.
Family members may not have their own ‘tools’ on their own to help the addict, and they may not have the energy to help themselves.
Families coping with addiction need help through family therapy in order to break down distrust and guilt by giving everyone an opportunity to feel heard. The family therapy process can help family members understand themselves and each other, and work through their troubles in a healthy way.
Families who used to feel anger and resentment, learn how to grow into highly functioning units and are able to support one another through honest communication and establishing healthy boundaries.
For families coping with drug addicts, it’s important not to have expectations that are unrealistic. If you are successful in encouraging your loved one to go to a drug rehab, it can be exciting and you may hope that things will finally get better.
However, it can take a long time for the behaviors and patterns of the addicted one to change. He or she may hold on to old habits or become frustrated with the recovery process, and that slow shift can lead to disappointment for the family member, especially if relapse occurs.
A relapse can be devastating for everyone. But it’s helpful to remember that relapse is not a failure, and research shows that because addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, relapse is part of the recovery journey.
Recovery is a lifelong journey, not just a single event.
Practice Good Self-Care
It’s easier for family members to manage when they develop their own coping strategies. Every member of a recovering family needs to take time to do something that’s about nurturing themselves. This includes:
- Making sure you get enough sleep
- Having a regular exercise regimen
- Eating healthy food
- Being in nature
- Playing a musical instrument
- Playing with children
- Spending quality time with friends
- Doing craft work
- Listening to soothing music
- Creating art
- Individual therapy sessions.
Family members often suffer from anxiety and depression. You might feel worn out with everything you’ve been doing for your loved one and may not know how to cope, so families coping with drug addiction often benefit from getting therapy themselves.
A private therapy session is a safe place for stressed-out family members to talk openly and work through issues when coping with substance abuse.
Educate Others and Advocate for Addicts
Addiction is a much-misunderstood subject and addicts are often shamed and judged harshly.
To some people, addiction is a sign of weakness, and addicts are expected to control their use or ‘just stop’. To others, addiction is something family members should fix or take no notice of.
It’s hard for family members to stay upbeat and hold hope for their loved one when they hear others use harsh words or careless statements in relation to people who are struggling with the disease of addiction. But families dealing with addiction can be part of changing these attitudes. They can share some of the knowledge they’ve learned from private research, support groups and therapy sessions.
It takes courage to advocate for people struggling with addiction. It’s also empowering and instead of staying silent and resentful, family members who speak out can effect change for the better.
Miracles Asia Can Help
Families who are impacted by the disease of addiction are an important part of our treatment program at Miracles Asia. Studies show that the more people who are involved with a person’s recovery from addiction, the better the outcome for everyone – the addict and their family. You don’t have to walk the path to recovery alone.
For families coping with substance abuse there are a number treatment facilities that provide support for family and friends of people with substance-use disorders. In fact, it’s a good way to measure the effectiveness of a treatment center, that is if they provide support for family and friends as well as the addicted person.
Miracles Asia’s family and friends program is focused on just that, so that affected others are included in the treatment process and learn how to develop coping skills of their own.
Support from family members and friends is helpful for the addict and can be an integral part of a successful recovery. Friends and family members who stay informed and take care of their own mental and physical health are better equipped to deal with addiction, support their loved ones and assist their family on the path to lifelong recovery.
Miracles Asia’s family resources will make sure that you get the help you need if you are family members coping with substance abuse.
Helping Families Coping with Substance Abuse
The negative consequences of alcohol and other drug dependence are well known; however, less attention is given to the consequences for family members and friends of people with addiction.
Without the right coping strategies, the stress of caring for a loved one who is struggling with addiction can lead to:
- Chronic medical health problems
- Psychological health problems
- Significant financial burden
- An overall reduction in quality of life.
A number of resources and care models have been developed to empower family members affected by substance dependence, offering strategies that allow these family members to better care for themselves, and, as a result, better support their loved ones.
Families have access to a wide array of support services to learn coping skills to manage the stress of caring for a substance-abusing person. As part of our program, you will also be able to share and communicate with others who are going through similar experiences.
One of the simplest and most cost-effective tactics is attending community-based support groups that have been specifically set up for friends and family members of people suffering from addiction.
Twelve Step support groups such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, CoDA, and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA) are free to anyone who wishes to attend. Meeting locations and times can easily be found online.
For family members who would like to work with professional therapists one-to-one, a number of intervention models that focus on educational strategies for healthy coping have been developed for people with loved ones who are chemically dependent. Your family doctor may be able to refer you to a specialist therapist or there are many online directories to put you in touch.
Intervention as a Way to Help
An intervention can be an important occasion arranged by a group of family and friends to help a person who’s struggling with addiction. The aim is to help the addict realise they have a problem and that they need help and that the group is prepared to support them.
The intervention is a carefully prepared process and best done with someone trained in the intervention procedure.
It’s important that the friends and family involved do not do the intervention without careful preparation – i.e. it must not be a spontaneous event.
It’s vital not to use blaming language, make accusations or say anything hurtful – these aspects will usually result in the addict refusing help.
The intervention needs to focus on the positive, however, it is important for a person struggling with addiction to know that their condition affects the mental and emotional health of their loved ones.
It’s vital that the families coping with substance abuse who hold an intervention don’t blame the addicted one for causing harm, rather the intervention is to let the addict know that their addiction causes negative changes in behavior, and there is a solution: support to go to a drug rehab and a detox if necessary.
Our after-care online group counselling is available at assigned times during the week to cater for you wherever you are in the world for support as you or your loved one transitions back into your or their communities.
It’s important to have on-going support while your loved one gets their own support for relapse prevention, which is a steep learning curve in early recovery. We will continue to support you as well as your loved one, making sure the best care continues.
Maybe you have questions about what to do, or how to go about life in general. For these reasons and more, our case-managers will stay in touch and help you manage your own support program while your loved one experiences their early few months in recovery.
Research shows that the longer the recovering person stays connected to a treatment program, the better the outcome i.e. the longer he or she works alongside professional counsellors, therapists, recovery coaches etc, the better the chance of long-term recovery from addiction.
We take your loved one’s treatment plan very seriously and want the best for them and for their family, so for that reason we know it’s important to stay in touch. You and your loved one deserve the best chance at living your best lives.
If you or a loved one need help with addiction please call us.