Addiction is not merely about drinking to excess and using drugs. Addiction profoundly affects the behavior of the addict, as well as his or her thinking patterns, emotional well-being, and spiritual health. Essentially, addiction will contaminate every area of life, spreading like a contagion and infecting the lives of others as it does. You, the loved one of the addict, may be the first to feel the devastating effects of the addiction as it spreads. Over time, it will begin to gravely effect your very own thinking, behavior, and overall well-being. You will become completely preoccupied with the drinking or drugging of your loved one, slowly losing yourself to the anxiety, depression, and constant unease that go hand-in-hand with watching an addict slowly kill himself.
You may begin obsessing over ways in which you can control the addictive behaviors, or you begin looking for ways in which to completely numb yourself to its effects. You may constantly attempt to convince yourself that it is really not all that bad. You may spend an excessive amount of time attempting to cover up the mistakes of your addicted loved one, while simultaneously trying to adequately punish them for their repeatedly bad behavior. You may begin to feel split down the middle, and you will likely begin wondering if you are in fact the ‘crazy’ one. You may begin to question what is normal, eventually losing a firm grasp on reality altogether.
Addiction and The Family Unit
When your very own life begins to center around the disease of addiction (and the actions of your addicted loved one), you become emotionally unavailable to everyone else in your life who may need you. Eventually, all of the love, compassion, and light-hearted fun that used to bind your family unit together will have been lost – another casualty of the disease. Addiction is frequently referred to as a ‘family disease’ because it has the potential to deeply effect the entire family, damaging once healthy functioning and compromising all present relationships as it does. It is not uncommon for the parents of addicted children to become obsessed with stopping their destructive behavior – a battle that is seldom (really never) won without extensive professional guidance and support. In many instances, one or both parents will begin unintentionally enabling their addicted loved one, fearful that he or she may die if not protected and continuously saved. Siblings may form deep resentments towards their addicted brother or sister, as well as the parental enabler.
Are You an Enabler?
Take an honest look at the past several years of your life. Consider how many times you have attempted to save or protect your addicted loved one, and sincerely evaluate how successful each attempt to intervene has been. Likely, the cyclical pattern of desperation, intervention, and ultimate failure has remained in place – and family dynamics have continued to change. The stress that goes hand-in-hand with living under the same roof as an addict will manifest itself in a number of ways, ranging from physical ailments such as headaches and high blood pressure to a serious lack of self-care. You are far too busy worrying about others to care for yourself. Other loved ones (spouses, brothers, sisters, children, mothers, fathers) begin to feel neglected and unimportant, and battles for affection and attention become the daily norm. As fear, sadness, and resentment pervade the family unit, the once functional household begins to rapidly deteriorate. The home becomes more of a fortress than a place of comfort and serenity – doors are padlocked, valuables are stashed away, and apprehension lives comfortably in every corner. This is no way to live!
What To Do?
Something needs to be done, but what? Unfortunately, families are often manipulated by their addicted loved one, who will ultimately do and say anything in order to continue drinking or using. In order for the family to return to a normal state of functioning, it is important that firm boundaries are set and maintained. In order to set and maintain boundaries, it must be understood that just as the addict is powerless over the disease of addiction, the family is powerless over the addict. Hiring a professional interventionist or a counselor or therapist who specializes in addiction is certainly recommended. Bear in mind the fact that this addiction specialist will not teach you how to help your loved one stop drinking or using, but rather, will instruct you on how to accept that you can truly only control your personal well-being. Learning to show your addicted family member tough love can be difficult, but there is a very significant difference between tough love and enabling – one is beneficial, and the other will inevitably do far more harm than good.
Tough Love – Vital to Recovery
The idea of ‘tough love’ can be scary. You may think to yourself, “I can’t just cut all ties with my addicted loved one, leaving him to sleep on the streets until he is willing to get help. He is far more likely to die if he is using drugs or drinking on the streets… at least when he is living at home I can monitor him – make sure he doesn’t overdose, or drink and get behind the wheel of a car.” Letting an addict live at home is not doing anyone any good, but tough love does not necessarily entail kicking a loved one to the curb and saying, “Figure it out for yourself.” The obsession to continuously use regardless of consequences has lead many heroin addicts to overdose, especially considering the lethal chemical compounds that heroin is now being so prevalently cut with. In some instances, tough love may mean forcibly entering an addict into treatment.
Again – it is imperative that the proper actions to take be discussed with an experienced and licensed professional. If you would like to speak to a professional regarding the most beneficial steps to take when dealing with an addict, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at 1-561-563-8407.