Your family probably already knows you have a drug addiction. If they don’t, admitting your dependence to them is a crucial step towards recovery. Sit them down and be as honest with them as you have been with yourself. It probably won’t be fun and it most likely won’t be pretty, but as soon as you have that off of your chest, you’ll be free to start pursuing your goal of being drug-free.
Tell your family members that you want their support in your endeavor and that it’s important for you to know that you can count on them to give that support. If they don’t, just accept it and move on yourself. Some people just can’t be that strong, but if you are sincere in your request, they will most likely be as supportive as you need them to be.
Your family needs to be supportive without becoming enablers. Remind them that you need them to be supportive of your decision and be available if you need to talk. But also tell them that it is not their responsibility to cover up your mistakes, relapses, or problems.
At all times, you need to respect them and show them that you appreciate their support. As difficult as it might be for you, it’s doubly as difficult for them to watch you going through the pain that you are.
As a family member, here are some things you can do to support your addict.
- Remind them to attend any meetings they need to (AA, NA, etc.)
- Do not loan them money
- Participate in group therapy if asked
- Encourage them to eat healthy and exercise
- Point out when they are engaging in damaging behavior
- Be open to listen when he or she wants to talk
- Don’t try to solve all their problems
You may have to change the way you celebrate family events. This is especially true with people who are trying to overcome alcohol addiction. Often, when some families get together, alcohol is a big part of the celebration. Be understanding if your family member with a problem doesn’t want to attend a function.
Try to keep alcohol in a separate place where they can’t get to it. DO NOT, under any circumstances poke fun at them or try to get them to join in. They are having a hard enough time as it is – they don’t need “peer” pressure on top of it all.
Generally, most families play certain roles during the addiction and recovery process. See if you or your family fits into any of these roles:
- The Addict: The person with the addiction is at the center. They are not necessarily most important, however, they will be the center of attention. After all, their addiction is the issue at hand. The rest of you will assume other roles around the addict.
- The Hero: This is the person who feels they have to make all family members “look good” in the eyes of others. They often ignore the problem and present things in a positive light as if the problem didn’t exist. The Hero is the perfectionist demanding more of The Addict than he or she can provide.
- The Mascot: The Mascot will often try to inject humor into the situation. Sometimes this humor is inappropriate and can hinder the recovery process. The Mascot is also the cheerleader providing support where possible.
- The Lost Child: This is the silent person who always seems to be in the way or left out. They are quiet and reserved not making problems. The Lost Child gives up self needs and tries to avoid conversation regarding the problem.
- The Scapegoat: This person often acts out in front of others. They divert attention from The Addict and the problems that you are all facing together.
- The Caretaker: This person is the enabler. They try to keep the whole family happy and keep all roles in balance. They often make excuses for The Addict’s behavior and puts on a happy front for outsiders. The Caretaker denies that there’s any problem and usually never mention anything about addiction or recovery.
The parts played by family members lead to codependency. Members make decisions concerning what the other person needs. Codependency leads to aversion and lack of self orientation in a situation where an addiction is present. Ultimately people "become" the part they are playing.
The goal in alcohol and drug addiction recovery is to bring each member as a whole into a situation where the problems can be dealt with. Individual talents and abilities should be integrated into the situation, allowing emotional honesty about the situation, without guilt or punishment.
People become familiar with and dependent on the role they play in families. In overcoming the family roles, you will begin to overcome issues, and what could be classified as the addiction to the role. While conquering the substance is important to the person with the addiction, a point to remember is the substance(s) is not the key to family recovery, removing the underlying roles are.
In beginning recovery, each family member must become proactive against the addiction to the role, and learn to become their true self. The goal is for each to person to become independent, and then approach the substance addiction recovery as a group of individuals, rather than as people playing a part. Whole, independent people can freely contribute to the recovery of the person overcoming the addiction, while a person playing a part can only perform the role.
Each family member must realize which role they play and then start thinking about how to change that role or make it work to the advantage of The Addict. Working together is a must when it comes to getting a loved one off of drugs. Make a list of strengths and weaknesses then assess that list to see how you can use your strengths to help The Addict without bringing your weaknesses into play.
Realize that the process and that role contributes in some way toward helping. Family members should acknowledge their individual parts in this process and acknowledge that they have an integral role that in unique to them. Each person is just as important as the other.
As a family, you have to prepare to be flexible. Overcoming drug addiction is a difficult journey – one that is met with bumps and dips and curves. Life can change from day to day even hour to hour. You need to “roll with the punches” and adapt to whatever situation is thrown at you in the whole process.
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We at Addiction Recovery Referrals know that it is very difficult to help a loved one with an addiction when he or she does not want help. Our staff is here to guide you through the difficult maze of recovery choices. These initial decisions are critical to your loved ones recovery as well as your family’s.