Addiction and the Family
No one wants a parent who is an addict, a cluster of alcoholic siblings or a child who qualifies for rehab. Addiction, like so many of the ills in our world, is just one more sign of the brokenness we experience as humans on this earth. And the horror of addiction goes beyond the damage it does to the user; the entire family not only suffers, but to some degree takes on some of the illness itself.
If you have addicts in your family, here are a few of the common issues you may encounter, as well as some tips for dealing with them.
Codependency is almost inescapable for the family of an addict. As the addiction evolves, so does the co-addiction of the family as they adapt to deal with it. What started out as helping someone who was struggling—by, say, loaning money, making the excuses or providing a place to stay—can become the full-blown enabling of an addict. The family members must honestly acknowledge that they too have become sick, and should seek help through Al-Anon or another program that supports, educates and empowers the family members of addicts.
Addiction, in many cases, also leads to abuse within the home. If there has been trauma in the home, all affected family members will need help in working through the abuse and getting well. Ignoring it only perpetuates the ongoing cycle of abuse and addiction. Recognize that separation may be the only option in keeping all members of the family safe.
Families often find that addicts blame others for their problems, and who is easier to blame than one’s family? And in some cases, the addict may even have a point. Dysfunctional homes are a breeding ground for addiction; however, there comes a time when we must all take responsibility for the people we are going to become, despite our circumstances. There is no point in getting defensive or trying to argue with the addict, who is not rational anyway. When he or she is ready to recover, he or she will be ready to take personal responsibility for the addiction.
Even if you express your concern to the addict in the most compassionate way, if he or she is still in denial, your words may fall on deaf ears, or they may be twisted and turned back on you.
It’s not uncommon to find addicts telling others they just want control or accusing them of other bad intentions. Continue to assure the addict of your love, but realize that only when the addict is ready to recover will he or she be able to hear your words as they are intended.
You can’t handle this on your own. Getting help and taking advantage of every resource available to you is not a sign of weakness, it is the way of strength and resilience. When it comes to dealing with addiction, Christian family support is invaluable. You need help and support from your faith community—people who will walk through this with you, pray for you and help you to seek God. You will also need help that specifically deals with the addiction and its effect on the family, such as Al-Anon. Learn to identify the symptoms of addiction and its impact on loved ones and then get the help you need, even if the addict will not.
Choose a better life. Choose recovery.