The battle of living with a loved one who struggles with active addiction is two-fold. First, there is the desire to help. Second, there is the struggle to maintain or re-establish peace and functionality in the family unit. The reality is that addicts can cause a tremendous amount of strain on their families and their home lives. The addict’s behavior can be unpredictable, undependable, and often destructive to varying degrees. This makes for an unstable living environment for the other members of the household and family. Addiction in the family affects everyone involved. Therefore, the most effective solutions require the effort of the entire family. It is very easy for family members to assume that it is only the addicted member who needs help or needs to change, but upon closer examination there is usually some way in which each member can contribute to the resolution of the problem. This is a disease that plagues the whole family and tends to negatively change each individual in different ways. It is vital to identify these factors and address them individually and collectively.
Coping with Addiction in the Family
Of the strategies available to help families suffering from addiction-related turmoil, healthy communication is paramount. If this is absent in the family, the situation will only worsen. It is crucial to find someone who can help facilitate effective and constructive communication methods among family members in order to bring them to a consensus around a strategy and to begin resolving the issues fostering the disease of addiction in their home.
Proper family-focused intervention strategies will necessarily have to be sought out, and these can be found at most drug treatment centers. The process typically involves a combination of the following components in order to address the most influential factors feeding the disease. These include;
- ending any form of isolation
- personal responsibility
- behavioral adjustments
- child engagement
- family bonding activities
- understanding and preparing for the possibility of relapse
The reason it is so important to approach addiction in the family as a family disease and not only as the disease of the addict is because it affects everyone. Different family members cope with the hostile environment of addiction in different ways and these are often diametrically opposed to one another . Some members of the family cope with the addiction by enabling it, some by retreating into isolation, some by becoming overachievers, others by denial, and still others by acting out in unhealthy ways.
All of these efforts to cope with the problem have one thing in common: they all ignore the causes of the problem. This is the defining characteristic of coping mechanisms; they are bandaid solutions which will only allow the disease to continue, fester, and grow. True and lasting relief will only come when each family member clearly expresses a willingness to contribute to the solution. This establishes at least one common goal that serves as a basis for family unity which can then be further built upon.
Treatment professionals serve as excellent aids in facilitating this process. Family intervention specialists and other professionals are available through the Treatment Now network.
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