There is nothing more painful than watching drugs turn somebody you love, into somebody you don’t even know.
Addiction is a family disease, it affects everybody involved. It’s isolating for both the addict and their loved ones. While the addicted is preoccupied with thoughts of using and obtaining drugs, family members feel pressure to cover up unhealthy situations. They isolate themselves from friends and family because they are filled with guilt and shame. They feel powerless and often blame themselves.
Families of drug addicts live in an almost constant state of fear and dread. They are terrified of the phone ringing because it might be the call about their loved one being found dead of an overdose. They become desperate to save them but a clumsy attempts to enable, rescue, or protect the addict can cause existing rifts to deepen even further.
Being married to an addict, you likely want to do everything in your power to prevent bad things from happening to your addicted loved one, very often the line is crossed between caring for the addict and trying to control their behavior. Children with drug addict parents also face unique stresses and pressures.
Codependency is very prevalent in families with drug abuse, as the behavior of one seems to have a profound influence on the behavior of other members of the family. It is important to realize that you didn’t cause your loved one’s addiction, and you cannot cure it or control it. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can easily spiral out of control with them.
Here are some things to consider when you have an addicted family member
Loving vs Enabling
You can love them without enabling them. It’s often said that if you baby the addict, you will bury the addict. Every time you bail them out, even with the best of intentions, you make it easier for them to continue their drug use. It might be the hardest thing in the world to watch your family member struggle, but it might be the only way that they will come to terms with the fact that they have a problem. You cannot raise their rock bottom.
Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution. The only person that you can control in this situation is you. You own your thoughts, behaviors, and actions. Addicts are very good at manipulating through guilt trips, and even violent behaviors. These are all tactics to perpetuate toxic and unhealthy relationships without boundaries. You can love the person and not their behavior; draw the line and refuse to put up with this type of abuse.
You Can’t Save them
Acceptance is key. No matter how desperately you want to save them, they might need some outside assistance. You see their problems very clearly, but if they are not accepting help from you, then it’s time to step back.
An addict will try and pull you back into the never-ending cycle of chaos if you allow it. For family members, it’s easy to become as sick as the addict that you love. See a counselor, and even schedule some additional doctor appointments to take care of all aspects of your physical, emotional and spiritual health. Surround yourself with love and support.
Resources For Families of Addicted Persons
Al-Anon: A mutual support group for those effected by a problem drinker in their lives which can include both family (including their children) and friends of the alcoholic. Participating members share their stories to offer hope and guidance to others.
Nar-Anon: A 12-step program for anyone affected by a loved one with a narcotic addiction. Loved ones are able to address the struggles they face through a structured, step-by-step process surrounded by others fighting similar battles who can encourage them.
SMART Recovery Family and Friends: For those who want an alternative to 12-step-based groups, S.M.A.R.T (Self Management and Recovery Training) helps the loved ones cope and effectively support the addicted person in their lives without enabling their behavior.
Families Anonymous: Another 12-step program for families and friends of people with drug addiction and related problems closely modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous.
G.R.A.S.P.: Grief Recovery After Substance Passing was created to offer understanding, compassion, and support for those who have lost someone they love through addiction and overdose.
Find more addiction recovery resources here.