Addictions can be incredibly destructive and not only for the person with the addictive behaviours.
Alcohol and drugs can also have a huge negative impact on the people around you, including family members.
Substance misuse is a growing problem amongst young people, with one study finding that a fifth (21%) of school pupils who admitted to drinking consumed more than 14 units – the recommended weekly low-risk guidelines. In the UK 1 in 11 of all people also tried drugs at least once in 2022.
It is not just young people in danger of addiction either. Whether it is the child, parent, partner, sibling or any other family member with the problem, addiction and substance misuse can tear families apart. Drug and alcohol addiction can lead to secrecy and deception, mood swings, violence, financial problems, problems at work and school and many other issues.
Ways to help cope with Addiction as a Family
An alcohol or drug addiction is not only destructive, it can be very difficult to break free from without expert help.
Getting professional treatment for alcohol addiction or drug addiction is always advisable but there are some things that families can do to help. Here are 5 strategies to cope with addiction as a family…
Learn About Addiction
The more you know about addiction, substance use disorders and the sort of addiction treatment programs available, the more you can potentially help. Learning more about addiction can also help you treat the person with the issue more sensitively.
Addiction used to be seen as a sign of weakness, a character flaw or a choice. Scientific study has shown that anyone can be affected by addiction and revealed more about how it affects the brain and body.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says: “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.”
This helps explain why it is so difficult to beat without treatment for drug addiction such as the programmes available at a drug or alcohol rehab clinic.
Communicate and manage emotions
It can be difficult to know how to talk to a loved one about their drinking or drug use. Even broaching the subject in the first place can be tricky, especially if they are in denial. The best approach can vary between different families and individuals but you might think about:
- The best time to approach
Wait until you are both calm and the other person has not been drinking or using drugs. Choose a quiet, private space and turn off phones, TV and other possible distractions.
- Be calm but insistent
Try to approach the subject in a calm and caring manner and avoid getting angry. At the same time, don’t allow yourself to be dissuaded from talking about the subject or palmed off with an insistence that there is no problem if there clearly is.
- Invite the other person to talk
You can’t force someone to open up and sometimes it can help to let the other person set the pace once you have broached the subject. They may be facing issues you are not aware of, but let them know you are there for them when they do want to talk.
Break the patterns and don’t be an enabler
Instead of seeing the person with the addiction as the sole cause of any problems, you might want to examine your own behaviour and identify other issues within the family. Family therapy can be a good way to explore various issues, including addiction and substance misuse.
While you want to offer support though, you should try to make sure that you don’t enable the person’s continuing drinking or drug use. This can be a fine line to tread, but taking over their responsibilities, providing money for alcohol or drugs or turning a blind eye to their behaviours can all have negative consequences in the long term.
Consider an intervention
If your loved one is in denial about the extent or even existence of their problem, or the extent to which it is affecting the family, an intervention can be valuable. Essentially, it involves family members, friends and others close to the addicted person coming together to express the impact their behaviour has had and to ask them to seek help.
It is important not to make the person feel they are being attacked or ‘ganged up on’ as this can result in defensiveness and ultimately be counterproductive.
It is easy to let emotions get out of control, but a professionally guided intervention can help avoid anger and recriminations, especially if carried out in a neutral setting. Some rehabs and treatment centres that offer support for friends, family and even support for employers may also offer a guided intervention service.
Seek Addiction help today
We offer support for family and support for friends, who can also be badly impacted by someone close to them who is struggling with addiction. Having family who care and a support network around you is massively important but at the end of the day, the person with the addiction must want to change and agree to seek help.
Detoxification can be a particular hurdle for anyone trying to overcome addiction, as it tends to result in withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings. Some families try to get through this together but it is extremely difficult and can be potentially dangerous without the expert help and medical guidance provided at an alcohol detox or drug detox clinic.
There are a number of treatment options available. Outpatient programmes may be available on the NHS but resources are often limited and there are limitations in these types of programmes. The single most effective treatment option is a holistic rehabilitation programme delivered at an alcohol and drug rehab.
This aims to treat every aspect of addiction, including the underlying and root causes. There is no magic ‘cure’ however, and the support of a loving family can still provide huge benefits on the road to recovery.