Addiction Is A Family Issue - There Is A Family Solution

Posted by Tim Harrington, Family Recovery School of Colorado on September 01, 2016

Tim HarringtonOur "family intervention” approach works because it focuses on the total picture and all of the people and the dynamics involved. We do not single out the addicted loved one as “the problem” and we don't let labels and myths keep him or her from being held responsible for either fixing the problems or living with the consequences. More importantly, we work with the family members who want the situation to change, ignoring the addicted loved one, who obviously has a vested interest in things staying the same.

It works because we focus on the people who want to change rather than trying to force change onto someone else. Whether dealing with a family, a couple, or anyone else, success always means working with whoever is motivated; skipping labels and self-justifying excuses; focusing on the present and future, not the past; and actively instituting new behaviors.

Things the Family Can Do for the Addicted Person:

  • Educate yourself on addiction & recovery/discovery.
  • Try not to accuse or judge. Avoid name-calling. This is a difficult time for both of you.
  • Provide a sober environment that reduces triggers for using.
  • Allow the addicted person time to go to 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 & drugs to relax, escape from pain, and even as a reward. The person addicted needs to find alternative ways to relax, escape from pain, & as a reward otherwise, they will turn back to their addiction.
  • Do not negatively enable. Do not provide excuses or cover up for the addict.
  • Do not shield the addicted person from the consequences of their addiction. Life is about being uncomfortable sometimes. There is a lesson to be learned in the discomfort.
  •  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.
  • If you want to provide financial support, buy the goods & services the addict needs instead of giving them money that they might use to buy alcohol or drugs.
  • Recognize & acknowledge the eternal essence that the person addicted has within them. Nobody is all good or all bad.
  • Behave exactly as you would if your loved one had a serious illness. What would you do if they were diagnosed with heart disease or cancer?

Things Family Members Can Do for Themselves:

  • Self-care. Living with or dealing with a person addicted to drugs is exhausting. You also need time to recover.
  • Avoid self-blame. You can’t control another person’s decisions, & you can’t force them to change.
  • Do not work harder than the person you’re trying to help. The best approach is to not do things for the person addicted, but instead to be an example of balance and self-care.
  • Being a caretaker is not good for you or the addicted person. Understand that there is only so much you can do to change another person.
  • Ask for help. Talk to a professional. Get a family recovery coach. Go to a support group such as Al-Anon.
  • Do not argue or try to discuss things with the person addicted when they are under the influence. It won’t get you anywhere.
  • If at all possible, try not to be negative when dealing with the person addicted to drugs. That may only increase their feelings of guilt and push them further into using.

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