By Steps to Recovery on November 8, 2012

Many times you will hear addiction referred to as a family disease. If one of your family members is affected by the disease of addiction, odds are your entire family is going to suffer. Addicts who are in active addiction fail to realize that they hurt the people closest to them the most. Usually, the most difficult part about this for the family is that they cannot “fix” the addict and get them to stop using. Without proper education families are not equipped with the knowledge to properly deal with their loved one’s addiction. An active substance abuser has the ability to tear families apart; the constant worry and stress of things going missing, the sick feeling in their stomachs every time the phone rings; all of these things need their own time to recover. Just as the addict needs to treat their disease, the family must treat their own issues which have stemmed from the addiction. If the family does not change as a unit, it is likely it will fall apart. Whether your loved one is currently using or currently in recovery, it is your responsible to take a hold of your own recovery.

1) Get a Support Network- Just as an addict can’t recover alone, most families cannot either. Families affected by the disease of addiction carry shame, guilt, and feelings of loneliness. Feeling that you are alone is only in your own head. Find a support group you connect with and who have the same experiences as you. Attempting to do this on your own is a very dangerous equation. There are many support groups out there to help families affected by addiction, use them!

2) Educate Yourself- Surely if your loved one was suffering from diabetes or cancer you would educate yourself on those diseases. So why would addiction be any different? The more educated you become on the disease the better you will be able to cope with it. Being educated makes you more self aware of your own behaviors as well as the addicted person’s.

3) Change Old Behaviors- Once we have become aware of the problem it is no longer acceptable to live in old behaviors. Enabling your loved ones, lying for them, or denying to yourself that there is a problem can all be deadly to the addict. Now that you are aware there is a problem, it is everyone’s responsibility to change their behaviors in order to recover. It helps no one to turn a blind eye and live in denial.

4) Stay Vigilant- The reality of addiction and recovery is that there are no guarantees. Addicts suffer from a life long terminal illness. Meaning, relapse is a reality. Obviously, as a loved one we can hope and pray that the addict will stay clean forever, however that is not how it always works. We must always stay vigilant in our recovery to be able to deal with bumps in the road and possible relapses. Staying constantly active in your own recovery is essential if you want to be supportive, loving, and compassionate for the addicted person.

5) Engage the Entire Family- If one part of the family is not on the same page as the rest, it is likely that this will disrupt everyone’s recovery process. It is just like a child who goes to mom and when she says no, goes to dad because he will say yes. All family members have to be on the same page. Addicts are very smart in manipulation, it is a skill they have mastered over the years. If there is a weak link in the chain they will exploit it.

Family recovery is just as essential as an addict’s recovery. Families can be left damaged for years by active addiction. Without work, they will likely fall apart. Pointing the finger and dwelling on the past doesn’t do any good, we must stay in the present and continue to move forward to recover. Families must understand it is important to ask for help. Always ask for help. Pride, and ego must be put aside, asking for help is not a sign of weakness, rather a sign of strength.