Help for the Family

An addiction destroys families as much as it destroys individuals. Living with an addict is both heartbreaking and exhausting. Family members are torn between how to help the addict and how to avoid being sucked into the addict’s world.

Here are some helpful suggestions that may help:

Things You Can Do For the Addict

  • Educate yourself on addiction and recovery.
  • Try not to judge, blame or accuse. This is a difficult time for both of you.
  • Provide a sober environment that reduces triggers for using.
  • Encourage and go with the addict to AA / NA meetings.
  • Understand that your lives will change. Do not wish for your old life back. Your old life to some extent is what got you here. You both need to create a new life where it is easier to not use alcohol or drugs.
  • Make sure that you both have time for fun. People use alcohol and drugs to relax, escape, and as a reward. The addict needs to find alternative ways to relax, escape, and as a reward otherwise they will turn back to their addiction.
  • Do not enable. Do not provide excuses or cover up for the addict.
  • Do not shield the addict from the consequences of their addiction. People are more likely to change if they have suffered enough negative consequences.
  • Set boundaries that you all agree on. The goal of boundaries is to improve the health of the family as a whole. Do not use boundaries to punish or shame but simply state what is okay and what is not. Keep boundaries simple and consistent.
  • Recognize and acknowledge the potential the addict has within them. See their strengths and value as they may not. 

Things You Can Do For Yourself

  • Take care of yourself. Living with an addict is exhausting. You also need time to recover and sort out how you and others in the family may have been impacted.
  • Avoid self-blame. You can’t control another person’s decisions, and you can’t force them to change, nor can you fix them or force learning.
  • Do not work harder than the person you’re trying to help. The best approach is to not do things for the addict, but instead to be an example of balance and self-care.
  • Being a caretaker is not good for you or the addict. Understand that there is only so much you can do, the work and the change has to come internally from them.
  • Ask for help. Talk to your local alcohol and drug counsellor or go to a support group such as Al-Anon. (More support groups are listed below.)
  • Do not argue or try to discuss things with the addict when they are under the influence. It won’t get you anywhere and will add to the hurt and pain.
  • Recognize that the addict has a lot of guilt and pain over their use, avoid increasing these feelings if possible as you do not want them to further delve into using.

The Three C’s of Dealing with an Addict

  • You didn't Cause the addiction.
  • You can't Control the addiction.
  • You can't Cure the addiction.

You can’t stop the drinking or using for another person.” ONLY they can.

Helpful Links for Family and Friends of Addicts

Retrieved  from http://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/families-and-addiction.htm and derived from Promises treatment centre. 

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