Addiction is a destructive force that can permanently change lives. There are many routes to recovery but most recovery journeys include a visit to a drug or alcohol rehab, where a person can get the help they need.
Recovery is not something that happens alone. Friends and, perhaps more importantly, family are key aspects of someone getting better. If you are affected by addiction it’s helpful to know about support for families of addicts, the options available and how to navigate through a stressful time.
Understanding Addiction and Its Impact on Families
Addiction is now more often referred to as substance use disorder. This language change demonstrates a change in attitudes towards addiction issues.
Addiction is a disease and once it grips a person, it needs more than strength of will to recover. Like any chronic illness, the effects of addiction will ripple out to not only impact the addict but the people around them. These effects can be as long-lasting as physical issues felt by the person addicted – changing family dynamics permanently.
As an addict’s behaviour changes, twisted by addiction, other members of the family will change also to cope. Some may seek to cover for the addict, unconsciously becoming an enabler whilst others, normally siblings, will fade into the background or act out in retaliation. Conflict will arise in families as people look for different ways to fix the problems, leading to further breaks in the family.
Families will face many challenges when faced with addiction beyond changing attitudes towards one another. Trust can be forever broken, stress will be at its peak, financial problems may arise and physical and emotional abuse could develop.
A single person’s addiction has the power to suck in those around them, creating an environment of confusion and fear where the solutions are not clear to see.
Coping with a family member’s addiction requires an understanding of addiction – knowing it is a disease and not a selfish choice. This is only one step, but an important one.
Help for Families: Types of Support Available
As a family member caught up in another person’s addiction, knowing the support available to you is vital to getting through the situation.
Whilst your family member will engage in addiction treatments such as detox and more regimented therapy, you can find help in various forms that can provide guidance and support on the recovery journey.
Someone else’s addiction may affect your mental health. Talking to a professional can help you work through the issues you may have about addiction and how to cope. These sessions give you a chance to explore your concerns and feelings in a safe place free of blame and judgement.
Finding addiction support groups for families can help you not feel so alone. Dealing with addiction can be isolating as perhaps your friends don’t know what you’re going through. Connecting with people who know the struggles can help you feel less isolated and you gain key insights into how to deal with addiction in the family.
Family therapy for addiction can be an important step in the recovery journey. Sessions provide a space for communication – talking through the issues around addiction and learning new ways to move forward. The goal of family therapy is for everyone to understand each other better and strengthen relationships.
Navigating the Emotional Journey
Dealing with someone else’s addiction can mean you have to manage an array of complex emotions. Hate and love will live side by side along with anger and fear. You’ll feel helpless in moments and then inspired to drag them through recovery.
Knowing how to navigate through this emotional journey and how to look after yourself increases the chance of success in recovery.
Knowing more about addiction itself can be a great way to start. As you come to learn about the science behind addiction, its characteristics and what to expect in the future you can feel more secure in your preparedness. With more understanding, you will feel ready for what comes next and be able to cope better with any potential hurdles along the way.
With so much attention on the family member suffering from attention, you can neglect your own emotional and mental health. Sometimes, the best thing to do is step away for a time. Allowing yourself the time to go for a walk, have a bath, and relax with a book should not make you feel bad. If you want to help someone, you need to be in the best physical and mental state that you can be.
Support can turn into enabling. To stop this type of behaviour from occurring, you need to set boundaries. Call it tough love or discipline, a line in the sand needs to be drawn on what you won’t accept. Not accepting insults, no longer giving money, and not spending time with them if they are under the influence are common boundaries that people set. Doing this can be tough but it shows your family member you are serious and what their addiction is doing to others.
Practical Steps for Supporting an Addicted Loved One
Even though the journey is emotional, if you are a more practical person then there are tangible things you can do to help a loved one.
- Research treatment options
- Stop indulging in destructive behaviour
- Learn about addiction
- Push the issue of rehab
- Find out about help for families of addicts
It may come to a point where you need a family intervention to bring about change. A professional can facilitate the intervention, bringing everyone to a neutral location to talk to the addict. Concerns can be raised and the addict will be able to see what their addiction is doing to their loved ones. In a more professional setting, the importance of seeking outside help will be emphasised.
Getting professional help in the form of private drug and alcohol rehab increases the chance of long-term recovery. A professional intervention can help an addict realise this and it can be beneficial for everyone to understand what to expect from the long process.
Resources and Finding Help
There are many resources offering help for families dealing with addiction. You are likely to find local resources – information about group support meetings can be found online, at your GP, or in local places like your library.
Many organisations operate nationally, such as:
Al-anon – 0800 0086 811
Families Anonymous – 0207 4984 680
We Are With You
We at Addiction Advocates can help families get access to the correct resources, providing information on rehab centres, and treatment options and answering any questions you might have.
Help a Loved One Now
Helping a family member with addiction is hard but the support is there if you look for it. Addiction Advocates can help you on your journey, providing comprehensive support and referring you to the resources and professional services that best suit your needs.