There’s a lot of focus pulled toward providing treatment to addicts, helping them stay sober, and overall better understanding of the whys and hows of addiction, but the families of addicts often get the short end of the stick in the matter.
More often than not, they don’t get enough – if any – attention and guidance they need to get through the crisis and come out the other side stronger than before.
In hopes of changing that, here are some essential tips for family members coping with addiction.
Why Addiction Is A Family Matter
No matter what your relationship with the addict is – whether they’re a spouse, your child, or a relative – you can probably tell by now that their addiction has a profound impact on how your family works. Addiction is a disease that affects the family as a whole, not just one person struggling with it – everyone involved will suffer in their own way.
That’s why you should be there for the recovery – it’s not only about fighting the addiction but about healing as a family, too. You being there, supporting them, could be a vital part of their commitment to sobriety.
Your “job“ doesn’t end the moment your loved one enters rehab, though. It is a lifelong process, full of ups and downs. There will probably come a time when you’ll feel like giving up, too, and in times like that, you have to remember the love you have for each other – remind yourself that everything else might come and go, but family is forever.
As long as you turn to each other for support, it can get better.
5 Tips To Help Family Members Coping With Addiction
So, what can you, as a family, do to cope with all the hardships of addiction?
To answer that, here are five tips for family members coping with addiction you should know about:
1. Education About Addiction Should Be Your First Step
Denial and ignorance are pretty much the ideal environments for addiction to not only develop, but thrive, as well. That’s why the first bit of advice to all the families out there who have a loved one suffering from addiction is to educate themselves.
By that, I mean more than just reading about the symptoms – although that can help in recognizing „red flags.“ Educate yourself on how the addiction affects the brain, how to make sure the addict stays healthy during detox (in case of alcohol addiction, learning how to use a blood pressure monitor can come in handy), and what your role is in their recovery.
Every piece of knowledge you gather along your way will help put you, as a family, on a path of healing.
Some will find peace and healing through educating others, as well. If you feel like you might be one of them, let me assure you that’s one of the healthiest coping mechanisms out there. So, don’t be afraid to speak up and be a part of the change – you never know, maybe there are other families out there that can find solace in your words.
2. Don’t Be Ashamed To Seek Professional Help
You can do everything in your power to try and help the addict, and often it still won’t be enough – and that’s perfectly okay.
Addiction can cause insurmountable stress for you to handle on your own, but the thing is, you don’t have to go through it alone. Family therapy can help you learn some healthy coping mechanisms, and transform a family driven apart with guilt and anger into a tightly woven unit that it once was.
And while you’re doing your best to help your loved one fight the addiction, it’s easy to forget to look after your well-being in the process. What I’m trying to say is:
It’s okay to take time for yourself, and a great idea to have private sessions with a therapist to work out any issues, such as stress and depression, that you might be carrying bottled up inside.
3. No Shaming And Judgement – Keep In Mind Addiction Is A Disease
You may feel angry and confused as to how it came to this, but try to refrain yourself from shaming and judging.
For an addict to feel like they are a disappointment to the family won’t benefit anyone involved. Judgment might yield results, just not those you were hoping to achieve. Instead of helping them, that will only lead to further lowering their confidence and self-image, and, in turn, encourage them to turn back to their addictive behaviors.
Remember, the goal is to end that vicious cycle.
Don’t let the frustration get the best of you. Addiction is a disease, and if you wouldn’t shame your loved one for having any other type of illness, now’s not the time to start, either.
4. Stay Realistic – There Are No Easy Fixes
Your loved one has entered treatment, so it’s smooth sailing from now on, right?
I’m sorry, but no, that’s not how addiction works. Recovery takes time and staying sober takes dedication that will probably remain unfathomable to anyone who hasn’t been an addict themselves.
I’m not saying this to discourage you. I’m saying it to help you understand that there’s a long road ahead of you as a family, and you should appreciate every step you take. No matter how small or irrelevant it might seem, it’s progress, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
You won’t return to being a picture-perfect family right away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your time together. Recovery is hard work, it’s messy, and it takes time. Don’t make it any harder on yourself, or the addict, by having unrealistic expectations.
If recovery were as simple as telling someone to stop doing it, addiction wouldn’t be a disease that’s plaguing our society as a whole.
5. Don’t Ever Blame Yourself – You Did Nothing Wrong
Lastly, I want you to remember that you did nothing wrong. In the midst of dealing with addiction that’s possibly been tearing your family apart for quite some time now, it’s important to remember not to point fingers – especially not at yourself.
Don’t try to take on a burden that isn’t yours – it won’t help anyone involved. You’re not doing anyone a favor by hosting a pity party for yourself.
Watching someone you love struggle with addiction is heartbreaking, and finding someone to blame for what you’re going through is the most natural thing to do. But when things get hard – and they will make no mistake about it – remember the three C’s:
- Cause: You didn’t cause it.
- Control: You can’t control it.
- Cure: You can’t cure it.
Final Words Of Support To Families Coping With Addiction
I’m not going to lie; there’s a long journey ahead of you – the battle with addiction is never truly over, even if your loved one has reached the state of sobriety.
But as long as you keep these tips for family members coping with addiction in mind, and lean on each other for compassion and support, this will be an experience that will make you stronger than ever – rather than tearing your family apart.