There’s plenty of information available online to people suffering from addiction. All you have to do is make a quick Google search and you’re overwhelmed with resources to help with addiction and recovery. But what about family members? All too often they get relegated to a secondary importance in treatment when they are the possibly the most important people to give an addict support. Not to mention that they often need help and counseling as well. Here are some ways that the family members of an addict or alcoholic get the help that they need.
A fairly standard approach is family therapy. Many addiction treatment centers offer some form of family therapy if you’re willing to do it. Take advantage of the counseling that your loved one is getting for their addiction and become a part of it. This is the way to show your support and also to address your issues and help you learn to cope with the family member’s addiction. You deserve some support because you have probably been coping with the guilt and the worry associated with addiction for years, right along with the person drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
Individual Counseling for Family Members
“Well, I don’t need therapy. I’m not the addict in the family. There’s nothing wrong with me.”
An addict isn’t the only one who can reject help and try to go it alone. And an addict isn’t the only one who needs help. Engaging in some individual counseling helps you cope with all the drama that often occurs in your family when someone has a substance abuse problem. There are often many complex dynamics within the family that may affect how you handle the problem, how you might be contributing to the problem, and what you can do about it. Individual counseling puts the focus back on you and you can choose it whether your loved one is in treatment or not. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a national hotline to refer family members to therapists who can help.
Wouldn’t it be nice to talk to some people who are empathetic to your situation and understand how your life has been impacted by drug or alcohol abuse in your family? Sometimes it’s easier to open up to a stranger than the people close to you and get more clarity from an unbiased opinion. Just having someone to talk to outside the family, whether they’re a professional or not, can be a blessing and help with the extra levels of stress you face. In conjunction with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Al-Anon specifically helps family members of alcoholics.
Reconnect With Other Family Members
Sometimes your greatest support comes from within your own family. As negative as substance abuse can be, it can also be a time for healing broken relationships. Having a weekly family dinner can help reconnect and strengthen bonds so you can become a team to fight for your loved one. When it comes to substance abuse, everyone needs to get on the same page and provide a unified front with boundaries.
Get Some Self-Help
Those in the medical profession have an old saying: you can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself. This is the part where you should engage in some self-care. You may have been so preoccupied with someone’s addiction that you’ve neglected your own needs for too long. Self-care doesn’t have to be putting aside a whole day for a spa day. It can be as simple as enjoying a long bubble bath, sipping a cup of tea with some peace and quiet, going for a walk in nature, or even simply going outside on your porch to enjoy the outdoors. The important thing is to do something you enjoy doing. You need a little joy in your life, even in the darkest moments. Especially in the darkest moments. You deserve it.
If you’re the family member of an addict, you’ve probably seen a few episodes of the TV show “Intervention.” Maybe you’ve even lived through it firsthand. If you have, you know all about setting boundaries. No one wants to hurt their cherished daughter, son, father, or mother, but engaging and enabling behavior such as giving them money, letting them stay at home, driving them to do drug deals, etc.–this is the kind of love that can kill.
There are many books that can help you with this and listening to the counselors on “Intervention” can help when they address that one family member that keeps enabling the behavior. And there is always at least one. Are you the person in your family who can’t say “no”? Sometimes seeing others give in to addicts can wake you up and make you realize the damage you’re doing by trying to help in the wrong ways.
One of your best protections is to educate yourself. Read as many books about addiction and recovery as possible. Talk to as many professionals as you can. Learn the facts about addiction to help you understand that this is a disease. Addiction is not laziness, it is not bad behavior, but a disease that over the long term causes physiological changes in the brain. You need to learn how to be able to help your loved one when they can’t do it themselves.
Become an Advocate
One of the most therapeutic–and empowering–things someone can do is to take up the cause for others. Become the advocate you need or wish you had. In other words, imagine what support you need right now and become that support for someone else. Once you’ve done all that education, put it to good use by helping others, which also helps yourself. Becoming an advocate can help bring meaning to this tremendously difficult thing that you’re going through.
There are many resources for help when someone suffers from substance abuse and addiction, but what about their family members? They often experience great suffering as they continue watching someone they love slowly killing themselves and feel helpless to do anything about it. An integral part of addiction treatment means getting help for the family as well. You can become a part of the solution by getting involved in family therapy or individual counseling to start learning how to better cope with a loved one’s addiction. You also need to get some help and you need to make time in your life for joy. A little self-help, self-care, and self-love can go a long way to help with the stress of family members who are in recovery or maybe haven’t yet gone into treatment. It’s important to guide a loved one to get help, but it’s important for you to get help too. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we want to involve and support you. Give us a call at 866-DETOX-25