Family members often suffer just as much, if not more than, the person who is in active addiction.
Millions of people all over the world suffer from the disease, and most of these people have family members whose wish is that their loved ones is able to stop using and return to the person they once knew.
Families play a massive role in the recovery process from alcohol and drug abuse, so it’s vital for parents and partners, brothers and sisters, children and friends, to understand how to correctly support the affected person properly.
Support System For Loved Ones
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 the support they need, it’s important that families coping with substance abuse have a strong support system in place for themselves.
An addict may not know how to ask for help or they might feel embarrassed to that they need it, but at the same time, if the family doesn't have insight into what addiction is, and how it consumes the persons thoughts, any attempt to assist may end in frustration or arguments.
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 gives you a solid foundation where you can 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 assist the person beside you. The flight attendants say this because in a chaotic situation, if you’re not ensuring your own health and safety, you won't be able to effectively help those around you.
A Few Ways You Can Help Your Loved Ones
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 assist you you let go of any anger and resentment. Nobody ever grows up wanting to be an addict. They didn’t choose to have an addiction.
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 sustain themselves.
Families coping with addiction need support through family therapy in order to break down distrust and guilt by giving everyone an opportunity to feel heard. The family therapy process can allow family members to 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. 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.
It’s important 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.
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.
Here's 14 simple things that you can do to practice good self care:
You might feel worn out with everything you’ve been doing for your loved one and may not know how to cope. This is why so families dealing with drug or alcohol 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.
Addiction is a very complex subject. Because of this, addicts are often judged extremely harshly. To some, addiction is seen a sign of weakness, and addicts are expected to be able to control their use or ‘just stop’.
Without a clear understanding of what addiction is, and how it effects everything in someone's life, trying to help or provide support, no matter how well intentioned it needs to be delivered in the correct way for the individuals situation in order to be effective.
Some people see addiction as something the family member should fix themselves, in other situations they find it easier to take no notice of, which compounds the problem.
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.
It is possible for families dealing with addiction to be part of changing these attitudes by sharing 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, and based on our experiences with family members here at Miracles Asia, most tend to find it empowering once they have a better understanding of how addiction effects people.
Helping Families Coping with Substance Abuse
Without the right coping strategies, the stress of caring for a loved one who is struggling with addiction can lead to:
Support Resources Are Available
As part of the residential rehab program at Miracles Asia , 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.
The aim is to provide insight to the addict of the awareness everyone has of their situation, in a judgment free space in order for them to realize they may have a problem & its something they don't need to solve alone.
Interventions are a carefully prepared process that are most effective when led by someone trained in the procedure.
It’s important that the friends and family attending are all included in the planning & preparation stages – 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.
Interventions should focus on the positive, while bringing attention to the person about how their condition affects the mental and emotional health of those around them.
The main goal of an intervention is to support the individual, let them know help is available and get them to start some type of treatment. It's not a stage for the family to air their frustrations.
How Miracles Asia Can Help
You don’t have to walk the path of supporting someone in addiction or 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 residential rehab 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.