If your family member struggles with addiction, chances are you’ve heard the buzz words. Care-taking, enabling, codependency, the list can be endless. As a newcomer to the world of addiction, it’s easy to become confused and overwhelmed.
Families are often the soft place for their addict to fall. They’re the ones who bear the weight of their loved ones addiction. Whether it’s cleaning up the messes, bailing them out, setting healthy boundaries or practising tough love, it’s an endless roller-coaster ride of what ifs and emotional ups and downs.
You walk a constant tight-rope of helping, but not helping too much.
So what is too much?
This is probably the most difficult question any family member will ever face. There is no right answer. Although addiction is a predictable disease, each person’s circumstances are unique. One size does not fit all. While tough love might be the right approach with one addict, it may not work with another.
There are varying degrees in the scope of addiction, starting from experimentation in the early stages, to homelessness in terminal. You may have an addict with mental health issues. Dual diagnosis is common in addiction. It is also tricky. A Dr. or psychiatrist can’t always diagnose accurately, as no using addict will be honest about what they’re using. A cocaine or meth addict, can present as bi-polar or schizophrenic. An alcoholic can present as chronically depressed.
You can see how complex this issue is. Addiction is a delusional and manipulative illness. It tells you, you don’t have it. The thought process is hijacked by a pattern of dishonesty and impairment.
There are a few tried and true approaches, however.
Identifying your role in your loved ones addiction, is crucial. Do you help out of fear, guilt or anxiety? Do you involve other people in your decision making process, when it comes to helping the addict? Do you keep secrets for the addict, or protect their unhealthy behaviours? Has the quality of your life changed? Are your other relationships, being effected?
If you’ve answered yes to these questions, you may want to change your approach. Addicts who have families that are willing to look at their roles and work a program of recovery, have the best overall chance of a successful recovery, themselves.
Trusting your gut is key. Intuition is the quiet, knowing place that lies within you. You can’t make a good decision without it. This is where family members start to fall down. Without support you lose the ability to see clearly. You second guess your natural built in intuitiveness. Without it, you don’t know how to handle situations and tend to over react and/or enable.
One on one, addiction wins every time. You can’t love your addict well. It would be like trying to love a cancer patient well. It’s a nice thought, but it’s wishful thinking.
Loving an addict is like living life between a rock and a hard place. There are no quick fixes, or easy solutions.
But there is hope.
Reach out. Ask for help. Access your communities resources. Go to meetings. Attend a family program and involve other people. Practise patience and learn to hit the pause button. Join a yoga group. Faith is a great comfort. If you haven’t prayed in a long while, I suggest you start.
Above all, be gentle with yourself.
You will make mistakes. We all do. It’s part of the learning process. Share what you’ve learned with others and move on.
Together WE can and do, make a difference.
You are only as alone, as you choose to be.
Don’t spend your whole life waiting for someone else to change. Be the change.
The only thing more tragic than one person suffering from addiction, is two.