Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mistakes Families Make When Dealing With Addiction

To help bring attention to National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month Seal authors Karen Franklin and Lauren King have written the following article. Franklin and King are the authors of Addicted Like Me: A Mother-Daughter Story of Substance Abuse and Recovery, a personal account of addiction and how it affects the entire family. Both have struggled with addiction, and now work to help others in the recovery process. Their website is

The Top Five Mistakes Families Make When Dealing With Addiction

Dealing with a loved one’s growing addiction can be one of the most challenging and stress filled issues we will ever deal with. When addiction enters our homes, it can feel as if an illusive enemy has taken over our family bringing chaos and destruction. Denial, confusion, anger, fear and shame begin to overwhelm us and we naturally react by trying to get control of the situation. The thing that hurts family members most of all in this situation is the lack of knowledge that addiction is a disease that cannot be controlled. Here is a list of some of the top mistakes we can make with our addicted loved ones.

1. Bailing them out

The nature of addiction will eventually lead to troubles for the addict. In most cases our desperate loved ones will turn on the manipulation to try and get us to “fix” the problem. This is when we need to practice a loving detachment and allow them to experience the pain of their consequences. Most addicts are in deep denial that they have a problem that is affecting their lives. They will never accept help if we make it easy for them. It will be impossible for them to face the truth until they begin to feel some of the repercussions of their own bad decisions.

2. Trying to control their behavior

When we try to control addictive behavior it generally ends up with our own frustration and disappointment. Addiction is a disease that manifests itself through the addict’s words and actions. When my daughter was out of control, I fought with everything in me to try to get her to change. Sadly, it never accomplished anything. What worked is when I sought the help of addiction professionals for her illness. Once the disease of addiction was treated, changes in her behavior for the better swiftly followed. The best thing we can do for our loved ones is to empower them to enter treatment and seek assistance in changing their own lives.

3. Giving them more chances

Many times when a loved one is abusing drugs they become willing to protect their secret at any cost. This includes telling family members what they want to hear. Most addicts will promise they will change with a convincing sincerity but we must remember that they are in the grips of a disease that will ultimately drive their behavior. Those that are further along in their drug abuse may be incapable of keeping promises or adhering to any agreements you make. Though you want to respect your loved one’s independence and privacy, it should never be at the price of his or her health or safety.

4. Waiting for the bottom to fall out

The problem with waiting for every addict to hit rock bottom is some will die, get arrested, or suffer great, irreversible harm before they get there. All addicts have their own bottom when they decide enough is enough. Get help for yourself and connect with professionals that can guide you to help raise the addict’s bottom.

5. Wasting a good crisis

There may be one, and only one, opportunity to approach the sick person and convince them to enter treatment. Don't blow that chance. Act before drastic measures are needed and dire consequences appear. A crisis event can be an opportunity for some families to confront the addict. Facing real consequences can wake some addicts up. Any intervention, either formal or informal, is an attempt to convince an addict that they are at their bottom, and it is time to make a change. The goal is to get the addict to the place that they stop fighting for their addiction and are willing to give recovery a chance.

Some 22 million people in this country are addicted to drugs or alcohol and it can happen to anyone. Families need to understand that ignoring signs or blaming it on others is not going to help your loved one. You need to seek help so it doesn't escalate to a much worse problem. Families in denial are not helping the addict, they are actually harming them. What’s important to remember is that when you learn your loved one has used drugs or alcohol, take it seriously. There isn't any shame in having a family member that is struggling, there is only shame if you don't reach out and seek help.

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