When an individual suffers from an addiction, family members, friends and employers suffer, too. An addict’s denial and defense mechanisms often go something like this: “I’m not hurting anyone else, and I can quit any time I want to.” Absorbed in their own misguided thinking and obsessions with drugs or alcohol, they fail to notice how much they are hurting people who care about them most. At the same time, families and friends often mistakenly enable the cycle of addiction to continue because of well-meaning but misguided attempts to help the one they love. Having informed knowledge about the fact of addiction is the first step in making decisions that will prevent enabling behavior.
Addiction is a disease of the mind, body and spirit. Once an addiction takes hold, be it drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, food, or spending, it has control. The user grows increasingly dependent on the substance of choice and more immersed in chaos. As much as it may seem contrary to the natural desire to reach out to someone who is suffering, the best action family members can take is to take care of themselves. By offering a place to stay, money, and food, or by covering up the truth and making excuses for the addict’s behavior, loved ones prevent the addict from experiencing the consequences of substance abuse.
FAMILY MEMBERS SUFFER SYMPTOMS OF THEIR OWN
Living with an alcoholic or addict is tumultuous and unpredictable. Family members never know what is going to happen next. If the user has periods of abstaining from the addiction, the family thinks the problem has gone away forever. Without treatment, this rarely is the case. Family and friends feel let down and betrayed over and over again. They experience anger, resentment and despair. They often lose sleep and lose weight because of worry. They jump when the telephone rings, fearing that they will hear tragic news about their loved one. Family members need help, too. By contacting a professional treatment center, they can gather resources to get support and learn how to show compassion and understanding without enabling.