Addiction is a family disease. When one person in the family is addicted to alcohol or drugs, it is highly likely that the whole family is also suffering from the effects of this insidious disease.
Families of addicts and alcoholics may want to help their loved ones, but often they have been caught up in a cycle of enabling and protection. They often unwittingly participate in the family drama by trying to cover up for the addict or prevent them from destroying their lives.
If someone you love is struggling, it’s important to learn everything you can about the recovery process. That way, you can help them in ways that are truly beneficial to their treatment. You will also begin to experience a form of recovery yourself.
Here are six important facts to know about the recovery process.
1. Your Loved One May Be More in Danger than You Realize
Many family members of addicts take a long time to acknowledge that their loved one has a problem. Often it takes a trip to the hospital or the jail to be confronted with the brutal truth.
Often there has been a lot of denial in the household. If the addict has been holding down a job and keeping up with family obligations, it can be easy to overlook the signs of trouble.
If your child or parent is an addict, you may feel like their problem is your fault. “If only I had been a better daughter”,”if only I had been a better mother”: these are the refrains that go through the head of family members.
These feelings of guilt, fear and denial can stand in the way of getting your relative the help she needs.
2. You May Not be Equipped to Give Them the Help They Need
Many families of alcoholics transform themselves around their loved one’s disease. Everyone in the household gets sicker and sicker as they try to contort themselves to accommodate the addict.
You may think you are being helpful by bailing them out of prison, playing their debts, and lying to their boss. Although it seems that this behavior is helping your relative, you are actually enabling their addiction.
Enabling perpetuates the problem instead of solving it. It may help you feel like you are in control, which might make you feel better initially. But it actually makes both you and the addict worse because you are taking away their responsibility.
One of the hardest things to realize about recovery for a family member is to understand that you cannot help them by yourself. You may be part of the problem, no matter how much you have tried to help. Your relative may need to get assistance elsewhere.
3. Some Patients Need Long-Term Care
Many addicts and alcoholics need to go away for a period of time in order to seek medical and psychological help. Rehabilitation facilities allow addicts to detox from substances under medical supervision. They also allow patients to put together some time, away from triggers and outside influences, and begin the process of learning how to live sober.
It may be hard to have your family member leave home for several weeks or even months. You may have to explain their absence to friends, relatives and your children. Depending on your insurance, there may be a financial cost to the family as well.
Learn everything you can about the kinds of rehab available and what may be right for your family. Some patients go to treatment during the day and come home at night. Some facilities invite family members to participate in therapy sessions; others prefer that their patients be isolated from their families for a period of time.
Work with the doctors and therapists involved with your loved one’s treatment so that they can get the best, most appropriate care possible. If you have to live without them for a few weeks, that is better than losing them to this disease forever.
4. Relapse is Part of the Disease
Many family members are shocked when the addict in their family “goes out.” After rehab, after a period of sobriety, it seems almost unfathomable that someone could go back to using drugs.
The truth is, two-thirds of all recovering addicts end up relapsing within the first year of their recovery.
The family of an alcoholic or addict needs to recognize the cunning, baffling power of this disease. Relapse happens frequently. It does not mean that the treatment was fruitless, or that the family did something wrong.
If you are prepared for a possible relapse by the addict you love, you will be better equipped to cope with your own inevitable feelings of anger and hopelessness. You too may need to seek help after a relapse.
5. Your Loved One May Withdraw from You
Many recovering addicts find comfort and solidarity amongst other addicts. For many, attendance at twelve step meetings and socializing with others in recovery helps them immeasurably through the painful phase of early sobriety.
It is often difficult for the family, who has missed the alcoholic so much when they were spending every night at the bar. The family of the addict may want her to spend more time at home, instead of hanging out with other junkies.
Working closely with others in the same situation is one proven way to help addicts overcome their disease. It is important that the family allows the person in recovery the time and peace to find support through fellowship with others who understand.
Often the recovered addict will return eventually to the family fold, grateful for the time you gave him to get well.
6. You May Need Help As Well
Because addiction is a family disease, family members may also need treatment. Many have found solace in Alcoholics Anonymous’ sister program, Alanon. Based on the same principles as other twelve-step programs, Alanon provides fellowship for the families of alcoholics and addicts and acknowledges that these family members also need healing.
Many family members seek individual or family therapy to help make the behavioral changes necessary to create a happier household. The rehab facility where your loved one received treatment may also offer counselling to the rest of the family.
The Recovery Process is a Life Long Commitment
For addicts and their family, the recovery process will be a lifelong journey. Often families who have been affected by addiction need time to find ways to coexist. Sometimes there may be bumps on the road.
If the family is committed to helping each other, there are many effective ways to overcome the disease of addiction. By taking it one day at a time, everyone in the family can triumph over despair and find a better way.
If you need more information on addiction, contact us.