Peaceful loving homes can become battlegrounds when a member is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Trust has often already been eroded, family members are guarded, and in many cases fits of rage become commonplace. In other instances, families see their loved ones losing weight, becoming disconnected and increasingly unrecognisable.
If things are in crisis the addict may be inclined to accept help willingly, and then the role of the family is to help get them into a programme as quickly as possible and stay connected with the process as much as possible. As addicts, we are often surprised by how willingly our loved ones will support us as we admit our problems and seek help.
All too often, the spectre of denial in the addict prevents addicts from accepting help and as loved ones know often only too well, a substance abuser seldom responds to a speech, threats, begging or pleading. These dynamics can become complex very quickly, and as desperation increases, fuses become shorter and things feel like they are spiraling beyond control. Family members may even consider legal compulsion to get the addiction sufferer into treatment.
In our experience forcing someone into treatment doesn’t often lead to good outcomes for them in treatment, and we much prefer to assist the family with an intervention that can help the sufferer to break through the denial long enough to realise willingly that they need help.
Sometimes this denial can even extend to family members too, and it may be difficult to see how bad things have become or when the right time for intervention might be. To help make this decision there is a list of questions at the end of this article, and if the answer to at least 2 of these is yes – we would encourage you to contact our family support team for a confidential counselling session.
Being open to receiving assistance from addiction professionals can be the very first step to healing the family as a whole. The humility to admit that we as a family require outside assistance is seen not as a sign of weakness, but as a sign of strength.
That addiction is a family illness, and what this actually means only really becomes clear once the addict is in treatment and working with the family. Most family members believe that the primary problem lies with the addict and if the addiction problem is solved then the family unit will heal. Negotiating a way forward ultimately will involve the whole family unit, whatever it may look like.
Whether you are suffering from addiction yourself, or are the loved one of a sufferer, we have put together a comprehensive e-book called:
If you are struggling through a situation similar to the ones described above, this resource can help you understand what might be happening, and how to get help to move forward.
- Do you regularly feel hurt, embarrassed or distressed by your loved one’s behaviour?
- Do you dread holidays and special occasions because you are worried that they will ruin them?
- Do you feel guilt and shame often?
- Do you feel responsible for their using?
- Do you often prefer to stay away from home rather than spend time with them?
- Do you discourage friends/family members from visiting because of their behaviour?
- Do you feel like there is no one who understands?
Have you considered calling the Police because of their behaviour?
- Do you find yourself covering up for the addict/alcoholic?
- Do you feel everything would be OK if they would just stop drinking/using?
- Do you feel it is because you are not enough?
- Do you tell lies to cover up for your loved one?
- Do you feel angry, confused or depressed most of the time?
- Do you feel you are “walking on eggshells” because you fear you might cause them to drink/use or are fearful of an angry outburst?