Twelve things to do if your loved one is a substance abuser:
- Don’t regard this as a family disgrace or family failure. You are not alone. Recovery from addiction can come about as in other illnesses.
- Don’t nag, preach or lecture the substance abuser.
- Guard against the “holier than thou” or martyr like attitude. It is possible to create this impression without saying a word. A substance abusers oversensitivity is such that he/she judges other people’s attitudes toward them more by small things than outspoken words.
- Don’t use the “if you loved me appeal”. Since the substance abusers use is compulsive and cannot be controlled by willpower, this approach only increases their guilt. It is like saying “if you loved me you would not have tuberculosis.”
- Avoid any threats unless you think it through fully and will definitely carry it out. Idle threats only make the substance user feel that you don’t mean what you say. You must present a strong and unified front.
- Understand that you can’t shelter the individual from exposure to alcohol. In the end, if the person wants to use he/she will despite your efforts. It is often recommended that significant others refrain from alcohol/drug use particular in early recovery. Would you smoke in the presence of someone with asthma when they were in treatment?
- Don’t let the substance abuser persuade you to drink or drug with them on the grounds that it will make them use less. It doesn’t. When you condone their drinking/drug use they put off doing what they need to do to be sober. Contrary to what the person may tell you, it is not ok to drink even one drink, even when the primary drug is not alcohol. A drug is a drug is a drug.
- Don’t be jealous of the person’s recovery program. The tendency is to think that the love of home and family is enough incentive to keep someone sober. Frequently the motivation of regaining self-respect is more compelling for the substance abuser than the resumption of family responsibilities. If you feel left out when the substance abuser turns to other people for help in staying sober remember you wouldn’t be jealous of the doctor if someone needed medical help, would you? Meeting attendance and working with others in recovery is essential.
- Don’t expect an immediate 100% recovery. In an illness there is a period of convalescence. You may hear that relapse is part of recovery and while that may be true, it doesn’t have to be. More needs to change than just the substance use to produce happiness in recovery. Recovering people are just people in a state of change. There will be periods of tension and resentment.
- Allow the substance abuser to be responsible for him/herself and his own decisions; including those involving drug/alcohol use. The individual needs to learn to say “no” gracefully and be motivated by their own desire for recovery. You can’t make someone use mood-altering substances and you can’t make them stay sober.
- Don’t do for the substance abuser what they are able to do for themselves. The individual suffering from substance dependency is responsible for their own illness. You can’t take the person’s medicine, face the person’s problems, solve the issues or suffer their consequences. What you can do is:
- Offer love, support and understanding. Take care of yourself and develop your own support systems.
The Family Program Description
Here at the Program, we believe that family involvement is an extremely important part of the overall recovery of our clients.
Not only do we treat our clients who suffer from the dependence to mood and mind altering substances, but also their families, who suffer from the debilitating effects of substance abuse, as well. Our talented and dedicated staff is always ready to include family members in family counseling sessions and individual counseling sessions in person and via telephone.
Through our collective experience, the staff at The Program recognizes the improved outcomes of recovery when clients’ loved ones are involved in the therapeutic process. There also many outlets for families in their home towns. Al-anon groups and other support systems are available to family members everywhere. Remember, recovery from addiction is a health issue, not a shameful, family secret. The more loved ones are proactive and involved, the better the results are for everyone. Recovery is a process, and families are a welcome and important part of that process.
Remember, our goal is to treat our clients and renew families!
Addiction and Family Roles
When a family isn’t emotionally healthy, everyone in the family unit takes on particular roles.
Usually this type of family upset is caused by a drug or alcohol addiction but it can also be caused by other disruptive things that overtakes the family’s mental wellbeing. What often occurs is that no one wants to admit and face the real issue and make the necessary changes. This could occur with mental illness, chronic medical illnesses or severe grief. All of the family roles assist each individual in distraction from the real issue.
Because addiction is one of the more common problems that cause these roles it is important to educate yourself in order to make changes and become a healthier family unit.
This individual uses excuses, minimizes the problem and refuses to change the behavior. They tend to sneak and lie about their drug/alcohol use and mishandling of their money. They deny that they have a problem and make it appear as if others have the problem. Their emotions tend to dictate their life by trying to cover them up instead of expressing them. They either have not been approached about drug rehab, refused to go, or have gone and relapsed and are in denial.
This is usually the spouse or significant other but sometimes the parent or friend if there is not a romantic partner involved. They tend to stick by the addict and pick up the pieces, make more excuses, to not expose the problems in a way that can make them stop. Many times they attempt to help but do in a way that ends up allowing the addiction to continue. Sometimes they are in as much denial as the addict in regards to how bad it really is or may become.
This is ordinarily the oldest child. They distract from the addiction by being the “good face” on the family, by being an overachiever, and being a rule follower. They are the do-gooder, but often resent this in the end. They do all sorts of extra work but eventually still don’t get the love and connection they desire.
Opposite of the “hero”. The family uses this person as a distraction and points blame to them for everything. This plays on the normal tendency of the first and second born to develop some distinct differences from one another to develop and mature. The scapegoat becomes the black sheep of the family unit and takes the hit of responsibility that belongs to the addict.
The Mascot is often one of the younger two kids. They distract from the addict by being humorous and silly bringing some light into the family. Their intention is to take away the pain of the family but sometimes they go too far. They usually get in trouble for this but the family needs this role to keep from getting too serious.
They are lost. They distract by not being a distraction. They go with the flow, don’t stand out, and don’t make trouble. With the antics and achievements of the other kids, the low-maintenance kid is what this family needs. Unfortunately the lost child often stays lost into adulthood and has a lot of trouble getting direction in life, interacting socially or standing up for themselves.