Families share many experiences together throughout their lives. When a family member is struggling with a serious substance abuse problem, it affects everyone in the family. Many times family members have carried much of the burden for their loved one. There are so many questions family can have about what is the best way to help. Families may have been struggling to help for a long time, or they may be blind-sided by finding out a loved one is struggling with addiction. Wherever your family is in this journey, here are a few ideas that may be beneficial for helping your family member.
• Do learn the facts about substance abuse and addiction. You can find this information through counseling, open AA/NA meetings, and reliable internet resources such as www.samhsa.gov or www.nida.gov.
• Don’t continually rescue the person struggling with substance abuse. Let them experience the pain of their consequences. These consequences can be legal, financial, relational, or emotional. For an addict, the pain of consequences has to be greater than continuing in their current lifestyle, or they will not stop. Many families struggle when a loved one is arrested and quickly want to bail them out of jail. Sometimes jail is the safest place for them to be because they no longer have access to their drug of choice, and they can safely detox. Of course if your loved one is threatening harm to themselves or others, please call 911, for everyone’s safety.
• Do set healthy boundaries with your family member struggling with substance abuse. This can happen by letting them know you will not accommodate their using. You will not financially support them and their addiction. Do not make idle threats, if you cannot follow through with your threat, it will be meaningless. Let your “yes be yes” and your “no be no.”
• Don’t try to analyze your loved ones drinking or drug use and find out the underlying cause. There are many reasons someone becomes addicted; educating yourself will help you. Let professionals help your loved one.
• Do encourage your loved one to seek treatment and support. There are many different types of treatment from community, private, hospital, and faith-based facilities (see samhsa website above). Most facilities will require your loved one to make the call and set up an assessment. (Facilities that treat youth under the age of 18 may have different requirements.) There are also many types of support groups such as AA, NA, and Celebrate Recovery that can also benefit your loved one on their journey to health. Please make sure you are not working harder than your loved one to get them help. If a person is not ready to get help, no amount of work you do will make them ready.
• Do not believe everything your family member struggling with substance abuse is telling you. Behavior patterns of lying and manipulation have become prominent in most addicts. The alcohol and/or drug have become their primary focus and they will say or do anything to get it. If you try to get them to keep a promise, they can’t at this point. They cannot hear you when you preach or lecture. Showing anger or pity towards your loved one continues the emotional roller coaster you are both on. Again, letting them feel the pain of their consequences can be one of the best motivators for seeking help.
Walking with your loved one can be a long and difficult process. Taking care of yourself is essential for surviving this difficult time. Family Help Part 3 will address ideas of how to care for yourself as your loved one struggles with substance abuse.
If you need help in your journey, please contact us at Village Counseling Center. We have a team of professional caring therapists who are willing to help you find your way.