Although few will admit it…addiction is a “family illness”.
In our experience, we increasingly see family members actually suffering MORE than the addict themselves.
While Mum or Dad witness relationships dissolving, careers crumbling, and a life unravelling, the addicted individual is spiralling, and largely oblivious to all of it. We see it every day.
But effective ways DO exist to take control, seize responsibility and help your loved one work through the pattern of addiction.
First, some understanding.
Most families witness a transformation of character, bizarre and unusual behaviours, rash and unpredictable emotions, angry outbursts, all of them atypical and uncharacteristic of the person they know and love.
Understandably, for many this can be shocking, perhaps even disturbing.
Understand that the shocking/unusual behaviour you’re witnessing, is not the person themselves, but the coping mechanism they’ve come to rely on, in order to feel ok about themselves, in the face of life’s issues.
The person you know is still there, but hidden underneath layers of compensatory behaviours which are there to protect and maintain access to the addictive substance of choice – because it’s the only way they know how to cope.
Why should we try to understand things in this way?
Because in the understanding, lies forgiveness, and a willingness to help, and keep on helping, through a journey of recovery.
However, in the throes of addiction, an individual can say and do very (very) damaging things.
While purely a representation of addictive coping mechanisms, verbal insults, aggression and physical outbursts should never be blindly accepted.
Make explicitly clear to your loved one that their behaviour is unacceptable, will not be tolerated, and will not be enabled.
Whilst often emotionally difficult, setting strong boundaries in this way, and maintaining them consistently, is almost always needed to help the addicted individual realise the problem is real, and action has to be taken.
Local social support and community groups such as a A/A, as well as private rehab clinics, frequently run family support groups, specifically designed for the needs of those caring for someone undergoing rehabilitation from addiction.
These can be a crucial lifeline offering opportunities, hope, a sense of community, and practical guidance, on the myriad of issues associated with tackling addiction as a family.
Unfortunately, the very nature of addiction is such that denial can be so strong, so overpowering, that the individual is consciously convinced they don’t need help, there is no problem, life still “works” just enough to get by, etc.
Whilst, to the outside eye, the dysfunction has gone far beyond deniability.
In these extreme cases, an intervention may be appropriate.
Typically, loved ones and family members are gathered around the addicted person and explain to them, in stark terms, the damage the problem is causing and how much they want to help.
The hope is that the addicted person will be able to acknowledge the problem enough, to take responsibility and positive action.
Interventions need to skilfully communicate a delicate balance of love and acceptance, as well as clear statements about the possible negative consequences of not taking action.
Getting the balance right can be tricky. Luckily, we have access to one of the UK’s leading interventionists, who has featured previously in mainstream TV appearances.
Interventions are now available from professional addiction specialists. It may be the help you need, to help a loved one recover from addiction. Get in touch