Addiction and Families
Wherever there’s an addict in the family, there’s often a sea of conflict within that family occurring behind the scenes.
The family home can be a soft place for the addict to land, yet, for the family, it means bearing the weight of their loved one’s addiction.
Family life with a member in active addiction is a rollercoaster – and many of us, when faced with this situation don’t know which way to jump. Should we be compassionate, deal out tough love, kick them out of home or set a healthy boundary?
Often other family members will feel like they’re caught between a rock and a hard place – they want to help the person with their addiction, yet conscious to not become an enabler.
Addiction reroutes rational thinking patterns in the brain, moving them from the rational frontal cortex to the ancient limbic system which is responsible for urgent impulses like flight or fight or immediate gratification.
It’s often worth remembering that addiction is a disease that can coerce an addict to behave in ways that are incongruent with a stable family life – they will steal, lie, threaten and manipulate you in any way possible so that they can access what they think they need to fulfil their urge to use.
Like wishful thinking will not cure cancer, you cannot love your addicted family member well. Often, loving your addicted family member involves letting them know that you unconditionally love them, but that you are not going to support their active addiction, and the accompanying behaviours that occur as a result.
This is where seeking professional help can help family members establish firm boundaries with their loved one, yet retain a sense of compassion and love.
Here are a few tips for families who want to help a loved one in active addiction.
Educate yourself about the disease of addiction and how it can play out in family life
Addiction thrives in isolation and secrecy, so getting things out in the open can help initiate change. By learning about addiction, families are better able to encourage and support an addict in recovery, rather than enabling their addiction or persecuting them for their disease. Understanding the disease of addiction is the first step towards improving dysfunction that can develop within family relationships as a result.
Seek treatment before they do
This may sound odd, but by attending a program that focuses on the role of the family in addiction, you can learn what helps and what hinders. Seek individual therapy for yourself or attend a Family Drug Support group.
By doing this, you will have the support of other families who are experiencing similar situation with their loved ones. Changing your own behaviours around addiction can assist in eliciting change in your loved one.
Contact Hader Clinic Queensland for information about Family Support Groups in your area such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon.
Learn to set appropriate boundaries
An individual in active addiction will engage in temper tantrums, emotional blackmail and threats to get their own way. Even though it can be painful, it’s important to let an addict experience the consequences of their own behaviour – whether that’s dismissal from a university course or employment all the way through to a few nights without shelter or money on the streets. No addict will ever recover without experiencing consequences of addiction, boundary setting or being told “no”.
Learn more about the role you play in your loved one’s addiction by requesting a copy of the Free book, ‘Am I Living with an Addict?’
Involve the experts
If you’re having trouble saying “no” to your addicted family member, then you may be feeling guilty about saying “yes” because it’s “just too hard” or you want to give them “one last chance”. In this scenario, you’ve been manipulated by your loved one’s addiction to keep enabling it. Involving professionals such as The Hader Clinic Queensland, can help you stay the course when the going gets tough – because often the disease of addiction presents unexpected challenges.
Look after yourself first
Loving someone with an addiction can be exhausting, heartbreaking and mentally draining which makes it easy to feel hopeless and adrift. Ensure that you’re engaging in self care activities that fill your cup – like coffee with a friend, a movie or a weekend away. Setting healthy boundaries with your loved ones will ensure you get time to look after yourself as well.
Consistency is important, and the message to your loved one should always start with, “I love you. Because I love you, I can only support your recovery and I will not support your addiction”.
Showing love for yourself and setting healthy and appropriate limitations lets your loved one know where they can go to seek help, whilst maintaining your personal agency and health.
Want more information? Contact the Hader Clinic Queensland on 1300 856 147 for further help. Ask about our free book, “Are you living with an addict”?
Queensland’s only private rehab centre with ACHS accreditation
We are proud to be the only private drug and alcohol addiction treatment centre in Queensland to be independantly accredited.