Help for Addiction
Alcohol and drug abuse problems can be treated. Once someone decides that they need help, help is available. But then, what if the person is unwilling to get help?
Addiction thrives in Secrecy
We can begin by recognizing that we are not alone, many families are dealing with similar situation. We may decide to talk about it with others; We may choose to acknowledge and share our feelings, or consider attending a support group.
Understanding addiction is also important. Knowledge is power, and without it we set ourselves up for failure. We need to understand that we did not cause it or cannot make someone stop. Accepting our limitations will help us cope; it will also help with decision making. This is a key issue for the families and one that is most difficult to accept: the need to shift the focus from the addict to ourselves. They are responsible for their own behavior, we are responsible for ours. If we have a problem making this change, how can we expect them to change? Alcoholics Anonymous use this prayer as a guide:
“God Grant Me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
We cannot change other people. Understanding and accepting this is of primary importance when living with an addict. We can change ourselves and our reactions towards the addict and their behavior, but we CANNOT change them. And, once we accept this and start behaving accordingly- just this one little change can make all the difference.
We need to figure out which of our own actions directly or indirectly support their addiction:
- bailing the addict out
- rescuing them
- ignoring the problem
- covering up for them
- supporting them financially
- taking over any of their responsibilites
Anytime we do something that concerns the addict we are at risk for enabling.
[ad#Google Adsense 468×60 Banner]
Addiction Affects Boundaries
We must learn about boundaries. We need to learn where “we stop and others begin”; What we can control, what we cannot; We must control and take care of our own problems, and we must let others control and take care of theirs. Addiction has a way of eliminating healthy boundaries. Sooner or later we become enmeshed with the addict, trying to solve their problems, help them out, take on their responsibilities, and prevent them from experiencing more problems. Unfortunately, the more we do this, the worse the addiction becomes. If we truly want to help, we need to understand the meaning and importance of boundaries, and we must begin to implement them.
- A boundary is a limit or line over which I will not allow anyone to cross because of the negative impact it would have on my person
- A boundary is a healthy emotional distance I maintain between me and another person so I don’t become too enmeshed and/or dependent.
- A boundary may be emotional or physical space between me and the other person.
A boundary is a behavioral line which is established for self-protection and should not be violated or crossed. The way in which we allow others to interact with us is governed by the personal boundaries we establish. Enforcing these boundaries is just as important as establishing them. Also enforcing them consistently, and being firm on what is acceptable and not acceptable to us. Another important point is that we need to communicate our boundaries to the addict. We need to be prepared to stand up for ourselves and defend our boundaries when they are being challenged. When we do not defend our boundaries, emotions such as anger and resentment begin to build up, but most importantly the boundaries begin to weaken, deteriorate, and in time cease to exist. This is a primary issue for the families of addicts because without healthy boundaries, the addiction tends to continue, and the family ends up helpless, lost, and out of control.
Addiction & Isolation
Families of addicts live in isolation and unhealthiness, with unspoken rules, the main ones being: “Don’t Talk, Don’t Feel, Don’t Trust”. We can break the rules. It is okay to talk about the problem, and tell others. After opening up and reaching out to others, we may learn that they have similar problems. We may find understanding and support. It is always much easier to deal with the issues of addiction if we let others help us. We don’t have to go through this alone. We can begin taking care of ourselves, but we need to stop isolating and withdrawing from the world because that is not going to help anyone. We need to find support groups or supportive people to talk with: professionals, doctors or counselors.
Addiction & Enabling
We need to learn about our options, begin self-evaluation process: How is the addiction affecting me?, How do I react to addiction and what do I do? Are my actions/reactions healthy or unhealthy? Am I allowing myself to get pulled into a situation that don’t want to be in ? Am I trying to solve a problem that is not mine to solve? We need to begin to pay attention to what behaviors, approaches are helpful in motivating someone to change, and which ones do the opposite. Accusations and arguments may not be helpful, but telling someone how their behavior is affecting us may be beneficial.
Addiction & Interventions
Intervention may be appropriate as long as it is done in a compassionate way and not confrontational. Interventions tend to work best if there is a spot in a treatment facility available for the addict. Lack of available spot in rehab may be a barrier to a successful intervention, so other options need to be considered.
It is also important to remember that change is a process, and consists of baby steps, trials and errors. Change takes time. When we change our response to addictive behavior we may help the addict recognize their addiction quicker and also consider change. When we stop covering up for her addiction, it becomes more visible as she is faced with the consequences for her actions. When addicts don’t see the consequences it is easier for them to deny the problem.
We can all “intervene” one step at the time just by making sure the addict faces and experiences full consequences of their actions. No more helping, no more rescuing, no more protecting…. Whenever we do things for the addict that they should be doing for themselves (paying bills, taking care of the kids, shopping, driving them around) we are supporting the addiction to continue. We need to begin to recognize the things we do that are not helpful. We need to stop doing these things today.