Loving An Addict Or Alcoholic: How To Help Them And Yourself
When a person struggles with drug or alcohol abuse, they are likely to struggle with mental health issues and physical problems, both short-term and chronic issues.
They are also likely to cause suffering for their loved ones, including spouses, parents, children, friends, and other family.
For those who love someone who is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, it is important to know the signs of substance abuse problems and how to best help the person in need. In addition, it is important that family members and friends take care of themselves as well.
How Social Workers In Nonaddiction Settings Can Help
It is beyond the scope of this article to present in detail how to assess for an SUD, and social workers inexperienced in this area should refer patients to those who specialize in the treatment of SUDs. However with the prevalence of SUDs in the general population being at least 10%, and higher for those presenting with mental health problems, social workers in all settings will find themselves working with individuals with SUDs. All clients, and especially those with known or suspected SUDs, should be reassured of confidentiality. Due to the shame and stigma associated with having an SUD, this is of utmost importance to obtain accurate information. Clients should be asked if they believe they have an SUD and can be informed of how the social worker typically helps those with SUDs. Social workers need to educate themselves about the clinical and community resources in their area available for the treatment of SUD and refer to these resources when indicated. This includes outpatient substance abuse programs, methadone clinics, intensive outpatient programs, detoxification, and residential settings as well as self-help meetings.
Following are some specific steps that social workers can take to be helpful when a SUD is suspected or identified:
Routinely assess for SUD problem and refer the individual to a specialty clinic for further assessment or treatment when indicated.
If problem is identified, educate about SUD, treatment, recovery, and relapse.
Take Our Substance Abuse Self
Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. The evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result.
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The Affects On The Family
Over time, living with active addiction creates anxiety, depression, and chronic stress for those closest to an addict. Many family members suffer in silence, while the addict doesnt see a problem. Children in particular act out and may become depressed or anxious.
The shame associated with addicts behavior prevents family members and friends from seeking help. As family members of addicts, you may isolate socially because its embarrassing to witness the outbursts. You may stop talking to family and friends because you fear being judged.
Practicing good self-care becomes essential for restoring emotional and physical health of entire in the family. Dealing with active addiction creates a pattern of self-neglect that needs healing. Redirecting the focus back on what you need makes detachment possible because your energy is no longer spent solely on the addict.
Learn As Much As Possible About Addiction
Education can help families escape the blame game. Rather than believing that the persons addiction stems from weakness, willfulness or stubbornness, it might be helpful to understand how it actually stems from changes within the brain. Understanding that addiction is not a choice might help you let go of anger and resentment you may be feeling about your loved ones addiction.
There are many online resources that can help families learn about addiction. Most bookstores also offer a wide selection of books about the chemistry of addiction and the science behind addiction treatment.
Additionally, every day, research teams are conducting in-depth studies about drugs. Theyre learning more about how substances interact with the cells inside the brain, and theyre using that knowledge to develop new treatments that might one day either treat or prevent addictions.
Thats the sort of knowledge that can help boost a familys sense of hope. With each advancement, you can feel more confident that the addiction can be treated and conquered.
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How Addiction Impacts Young Children
According to Psychology Today, 1 in 5 children grows up in a home where a parent abuses drugs or alcohol. Witnessing the trauma of a parent suffering from addiction at a young age has long-term effects on the child. Children who grow up seeing a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol are more likely to develop SUDs in their adulthood. They are also 3 times more likely to be neglected or physically and/or sexually abused. Seeing a parent on drugs often invokes distressing emotions which not only create delays in learning and development but can also lead to pronged mental and emotional disorders.
Since children are still developing their personalities and are vulnerable to external influences, they run the risk of repeating such behaviors. Children may be exposed to aggression or violent behavior due to a parents drinking. Arguments between parents may be normal, causing the child emotional distress as they witness family members fighting.
Early exposure to a home divided by drug use can cause a child to feel emotionally and physically neglected and unsafe. As a result, they can become more mentally and emotionally unstable. Children may develop extreme guilt and self-blame for a parents substance abuse. They may develop feelings of unworthiness or develop dysfunctional attachments in their adulthood. In extreme cases, children can be removed from the home and placed in foster care.
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How To Deal With An Addict In The Family
Learning how to deal with an addict in the family may seem nearly impossible. An addict in the grips of their addiction is not a lovely person in the smallest sense of the word. In fact, many addicts in the grips of their addiction are scary, mean, and not the person you thought you knew and loved. Many times when an addict goes to rehab and recover a family is still left with the feelings of what it was like when the addict was in active addiction and they dont know how to deal with an addict in the family-sober or not. So if you are wondering how to deal with an addict in the family here are some things for you to look at.
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How To Deal With Addicts In The Family
Addicts in the family. Hard to deal with when you dont know too much about addiction. In this piece, we will walk you through how to deal with addicts in the family, as well as how to attend to them. If any close family member of yours is addicted to drinking or drugs, you might sometimes feel like theres not much hope for them or you.
Nothing is further from the truth.
Encourage Them To Seek Help
Trust is a key factor in this step.
In Step 7, we talked about love and support replacing intimidation and guilt. Once you have established that approach, encouragement comes next.
While some drug rehab centers and support groups utilize the tough love approach, we believe you can get just as far or further with encouragement. You may be asking yourself at this point, how can you love and encourage while at the same time setting boundaries and looking out for yourself first?
When healthy boundaries are set and you are putting you first, you are more able to freely share love and empathy. You have made the decision to not let that person harm you or take advantage of you or whatever the boundary is you have set.
Once any negative feelings and emotions about the person or situation have taken a back seat, you can begin to take a more objective approach to the problem and motivate them to start getting help.
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Check Your Ego And Your Attitude At The Door
It can be extremely easy for you to become resentful of your addicted loved one and begin judging them for their actions as he or she continues to use drugs or alcohol. Whether these feelings are floating right at the surface or hiding deep in your subconscious, it can skew your interactions with him or her. You might be quick to blame your family member for everything and/or treat him or her disrespectfully . Your feelings are not invalid, however, you have to check them at the door in order to help your loved one get sober. This sounds much easier said than done because it is. Doing this is not easy, however, when you are able to control your ego and your attitude, you put yourself in a better position to help. This is because doing so encourages him or her to:
- Build a sense of trust with you
- Feel heard and understood
- Begin realizing the severity of the situation
Approaching your loved one with empathy can make a world of difference, as it allows for these benefits to come to fruition. Letting other emotions stand in the way of that can be the difference between life and death.
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Allowing Addiction To Continue: Becoming Comfortable In The Uncomfortable
Nobody likes change, even when its better. Change is scary, and we as humans will run away from change, even if there is the hope of a better life in that change. We need someone to push us into that change. This is true with both addicts and the families of addicts.
At least they are in a safe place where I can take care of them if anything happens
Do you assert this or similar justifications to try and rationalize what is taking place in your life right now? Dont justify these actions stop them!
Family members too are afraid of that change, not just the addict. However, the longer you let this continue, the more it becomes the normal. That new, toxic normal needs to change, and families too feel the pain of change and react to it. This is codependency sneaks into families, and otherwise healthy family members begin acting in very unhealthy ways.
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Help Is Available For The Families Of Addicts
Having a family member with an addiction problem is painful, confusing, and overwhelming. The situation is not hopeless, though. Treatment facilities can help people with substance abuse problems and the families who love them.
If you want to know how to get someone into rehab, we can help you. Peace Valley Recovery provides well-rounded, comprehensive addiction treatment programs. If your loved one wants to stop using drugs and alcohol, we can help.
We know the pain of caring for someone who cant stay clean and sober and we are here for you. Call us at today to speak with an admissions counselor who can answer any questions. You dont have to walk this path alone!
Accept That Recovery Is An Ongoing Journey And Remain Supportive
Whether youve managed to persuade your loved one to seek help entirely on their terms or you need to stage an intervention to make this happen, all that counts at this stage is helping them start down the path to recovery.
Keep in mind that when the addict stops using, this is merely the first step on a long journey.
This is arguably one of the hardest parts. You feel like half the battle is won, but be aware of all the challenges.
Stay positive and make sure your loved one knows youre with them as they take these difficult steps toward sobriety and ongoing recovery.
Addiction is a disease for which theres no cure. Millions of recovering addicts are proof positive that its entirely possible to improve.
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Dont Forget To Take Care Of Yourself
Living with or supporting an addict can take a toll on you. Research has shown that it is the people closest to the addict that are affected the most. The addiction can be a stressor that can last for a long time and have detrimental effects on the family.
Find and connect with peers and support groups with members who have gone through or are going through the same situation you are. These support groups provide safe, non-judgmental spaces for families to talk about, learn, and overcome addiction.
Attending support group meetings can help you get a better quality of life, lower your stress levels, improve your psychological health, and teach you other ways to deal with the addict.
Role : The Lost Child
The invisible family member, always careful not to draw attention or cause trouble, is known as the Lost Child. They usually care very deeply, but bury their feelings of hurt, anger, guilt, and loneliness, while denying their own needs. They check out emotionally from the family drama, avoid any conversation about substances or the family roles in addiction, and spend most of their time hiding away with solitary activities. The Lost Child will often have difficulty making decisions and forming intimate relationships because they are out of touch with their true feelings.
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Types Of Support Groups For Families Of Drug Or Alcohol Addicts
Several support groups offer services across the U.S. specifically geared toward families of individuals battling drug addiction or alcoholism, including:6,7
Al-Anon Family Groups: Al-Anon is a worldwide fellowship program for families and friends of alcoholics. The program does not focus on trying to get a loved one to stop compulsive drinking, but instead addresses common problems faced by the loved ones of alcoholics.
Nar-Anon Family Groups: Nar-Anon is a 12-step program for anyone who is affected by another persons addiction. Loved ones are able to address the struggles they face through a structured, step-by-step process surrounded by others fighting similar battles to provide additional support and encouragement.
Families Anonymous: Families Anonymous is another 12-step program for families and friends of people with drug addiction and related problems. Anyone who is concerned about the destructive behavior of a loved one is welcome to attend.
Learn to Cope: Learn to Cope is a peer support network for families affected by drug addiction. They offer local face-to-face meetings at several locations throughout Massachusetts, New Jersey, Florida, and Idaho, in addition to myriad online support resources and forums.
Rehearse With Your Intervention Team
Once you have determined who will be a part of the intervention, your interventionist will help you layout the steps of your intervention. When those steps are put in place, rehearsing how the intervention will be carried out is imperative. Something as serious as an intervention deserves a solid run through or two to ensure that everyone knows what to do.
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In Family Systems Addiction Affects Everyone
Families form systems that are much more than the individuals who comprise them. Every family has its own organization, and family members develop particular ways of acting and reacting with each other and with the outside world. These patterns of interaction between family members give each family system a particular equilibrium and style related to such areas as expectations how feelings are expressed how conflict is managed how family issues are communicated in the world outside the family system and what roles and responsibilities family members are assignedconsciously and unconsciously. These factors help shape the personality styles and behaviors of each family member.
Change in any part of the family system leads to changes in all parts of the system.
Think of a mobile hanging from the ceiling or over a crib in a childs room: each part is inextricably connected to the other parts such that, when one part moves, all of the other parts move in response to it. As it relates to families, this process can work in a variety of ways.
For example, when one family memberfor instance, a parentis overly responsible and controlling, this influences the attitudes and behaviors of other family members. Adult partners and children both typically respond by becoming somewhat less responsible.
The 4 Best Ways Family Can Support An Addict
Living with a son, daughter, brother or sister who is addicted to drugs can be absolutely draining for the family. If you are in this situation, youre likely wondering, What are the best ways for a family to support an addict? It may feel as though nothing you can do will ever help them get sober. You have tried time and time again and feel completely spent.
Addiction affects everyone, not just the person abusing substances. Oftentimes, though, they do not realize how their actions influence other people, especially those closest to them. They continue to use no matter how much you beg, plead or pray. Some continue their behavior even after you cut them off entirely.
Even when it seems like there is no hope, there are ways for a family to support an addict. Anyone with a desire to get clean and sober can do it, even the most hopeless addict. The biggest obstacle is that they must get sober for themselves because they honestly want to, not for anyone else.
Though this might make you feel like there is no chance, there is. Once the addict hits their bottom, the lowest place they are willing to go in their addiction, they will get sober. Until then, you can learn about some of the best ways for a family to support an addict.
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