March 01, 2021
Do you have a family member or loved one who you are worried is using substances, and feel powerless to do anything about it? You may find yourself asking questions like “Did I cause the addiction? How could I have been so blind? Is there any hope? How can I help him or her get well? Is it possible to find peace of mind?”
Behind almost every person struggling with addiction, there is a family member—parent, grandparent, sibling, spouse, or another—who suffers too. Witnessing a loved one’s addiction is both a heart-rending and bewildering experience. Feelings of anger, guilt, sadness, and fear combine with desperation and helplessness, leaving you at times in a state of both panic and emotional paralysis.
Worse still, you might feel as if it is your fault, even as you are at a loss to fix it.
Despite their suffering, the family of the addicted love one too often remains a hidden victim of addiction, rarely receiving the support that matches their anguish.
You do not have to suffer. Nor are you alone and helpless. Here are five proven steps—perspectives, practices, and programs—you can take to help yourself and lend support to a loved one in addiction and recovery.
Knowledge is power. And you can empower yourself by learning about the nature of addiction. Understanding the disease of addiction will help you identify risk factors, defuse stigma, let go of anger and resentment, learn the language of addiction, set boundaries, and promote recovery. Recovery Centers for America provides helpful resources for families who have a loved one suffering from addiction.
Family-based support groups provide a safe and open space for family members of the person struggling with addiction to connect with each other, share their experience, learn and gain support from others. Various scientific studies (see for example Moos 2008) show that the structure and bonding afforded by such groups bolster mental and physical health by reducing stress, developing coping skills, and promoting self-efficacy.
Practicing self-care not only benefits your own well-being, but also crucially puts you in a position to help others. Finding time for self-care can thereby make you a better caretaker of others, showing concern for both your needs and the needs of the addicted loved one in your life. Psychologists have identified several kinds of self-care, including:
Al-Anon teaches us to detach with love in order to preserve our sanity. Loving detachment means we care so much for the addicted loved ones in our lives that we no longer wish to assist them in their destructive patterns. We want instead to encourage openings for change by allowing them to face the consequences of their actions, as we protect our most fundamental needs as well.
At first blush, this might sound selfish, raising worries that we are abandoning our loved ones. But on a closer inspection, it is really the opposite. Detachment allows us to break counterproductive patterns we might have found ourselves unknowingly locked into, such as shaming or threatening. Detachment also frees us and our loved ones from the damaging effects of enabling, since we no longer try, impossibly, to solve their problems for them and thereby create space for them to face their problems for themselves. In these ways and others, detachment becomes an expression of love and an invitation for empowerment.
It bears emphasis: the idea is not for families to detach from their loved ones. Rather, it is for them to approach their loved ones with compassion as they detach from the disease.
Studies have shown that individual therapy has equipped parents with coping skills, stress management, and improvements in handling problems caused by their children’s substance abuse (see McGillicutty, et al 2015). Further, there is empirical data supporting the positive benefits of family therapy for both addicted loved ones and family members alike.
When you have a loved one struggling, you want to help and do something to ease their pain. Recovery Centers of America offers invaluable family resources. We can help you repair damaged relationships, learn new forms of interpersonal, build trust, attain greater self-awareness of family dynamics, and recover hope together.
Contact us today and learn more at recoverycentersofamerica.com.