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Your Family And Addiction

Last updated: August 21, 2018

You’ve probably experienced a number of emotions about your loved one’s addiction and the ways their substance abuse has changed your lives. Addiction is a disease that impacts every member of a family, not just the individual who is using substances. Therefore, recovery should also include the family. Often, recovery begins when a person is among people who are not struggling with addiction and are ready to experience positive change.

How to Create Family Change

1. Learn as much as possible, and never stop learning.

The first step to supporting change is to learn as much as you can about addiction and recovery. When you have a good understanding of the biology and psychology behind addiction, you will begin to gain a sense of confidence in what you know, which will enable you to motivate change in those around you. When you understand your loved one and the disease of addiction, you will be able to gain stronger boundaries and build a better future for yourself, while you encourage the best in those you care about.

2. Discuss the problem with your family, safe friends, a trusted counselor or interventionist.

If you are struggling with addiction, you can help your family to help you by opening up to them or someone you can trust. Your family is probably well aware of the problem at hand, and you will be able to enact change when you face the issue together. Share what you have learned, or seek the help of a licensed counselor to help your family begin to heal.

Graphic of types of family members Infographic Source

As a family member, it is a good idea to have a positive message you want to share with your addicted loved one. You will want your loved one to know that you care, support their recovery and want him or her to accept treatment. It’s a good idea to pre-plan ways to discuss their addiction with them. A counselor or professional interventionist can help you find the best language and approach.

3. Don’t wait for rock bottom.

We are all familiar with the term “rock bottom” when it comes to addiction. Often, popular culture states that a person must reach the worst of the worst-case scenario before recovery can begin. This isn’t true. What is rock bottom for one person may not be the lowest point for another person. Recovery can begin from any stage of substance use disorder. In fact, it is better to get help sooner than later as it may save the life of the person you care about.

4. Embrace family counseling and support.

A number of licensed mental health professionals dedicate their time to helping family members of addicted persons. A counselor can offer you a safe place to vent, a coach through tough times and an advocate for your own healing. Family counseling can help break addiction patterns for the entire family. Groups like Al-Anon and Alateen are free and designed for family members and partners of those who struggle with alcohol addiction. Addiction is a very isolating illness, and it can isolate the entire family, so reach out.

Infographic on Disorder Statistics Infographic Source

5. Seek rehab treatment.

Don’t expect your loved one to miraculously be cured of their addiction. Addictions take time to develop, and willpower alone is not enough to make a person stop using drugs or alcohol. Like most chronic diseases, addiction has a genetic component; and many addictions are actually physical chemical dependencies. Rehab treatment is one step more than just counseling therapy. Rehab offers a safe place for your loved one to physically detox from substance abuse and to receive around-the-clock treatment for side effects, analysis of any co-occurring disorders and initial stabilization that puts sobriety on the right track. Recovery requires a process of treatment, support and ongoing work. Explore treatment options for your loved one, and ask about family programs, including family counseling. These services are designed to offer much-needed help and support, so make good use of them. Your family is worth it.

By Kathryn Millán, MA, LPC/MHSP

A writer for The Life Challenge.

The L+C is a recovery initiative to support those who have, and will, face challenges. Whether your challenge is getting out of bed in the morning, reconnecting with a loved one, or making strides towards a personal goal, we are here for you. We are a positive and motivational community. Together we will break down life’s barriers and celebrate the accomplishments along the way.

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