The Pain of Addiction
Most people are aware of the debilitating and sometimes exhausting nature of addiction. We often view addicts and alcoholics with pity, criticism or some combination of both. But what about the people around the addict? For every person struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, there are family members and friends struggling with how to help. This can take a significant toll on their health and mental well-being, not to mention how it effects children growing up with an addict in the household.
From an outsider’s perspective, it’s easy to say what the loved one of an addict “should” do. Countless episodes of TV shows like “Intervention” show families getting tough with the addict and promising to cut them off if they don’t get help. But how realistic, not to mention helpful, is that approach? This is not a “one size fits all” situation and certainly each family and individual need to figure out what works best for them. It’s important to recognize that recovery for the addict, as well as the family, is a process-it is not over when someone gets home from rehab or when they hit their first year of sobriety. The effects of the addict’s behavior will be felt for years to come in the people around them, regardless of if they get sober or not.
The trauma of having an addict in the family can take shape in multiple ways. Parents fear for their children and often feel they are responsible for making sure they don’t feel the consequences of their behavior. It is painful to know your son or daughter might lose a spouse, their home or get kicked out of school. A spouse might constantly feel that they have to make excuses for their husband/wife when they’re drinking too much. Many will cover for them with their parents or friends if they’re stealing money to support their habit. Children often are left with lifelong false beliefs because of the unstable nature of their household. As adults they may suffer from anxiety or depression. Never quite feeling at ease around other people and not really knowing why. Living with an alcoholic or addict means you never quite know what’s going to happen. One day, sitting in front of the TV after school is perfectly fine-the next day, it’s the cause of World War III in the household.
So, what’s the best course of action if you have an addict in your life?
Talk about it-to a therapist, a friend, the addict themselves. Lack of openness creates a sense of shame and embarrassment, even if you don’t realize it. Regardless of what happens with the alcoholic or addict in your life make sure you get help. There is no reason to go through it alone. Having an addict in the family often creates a sense of isolation and it’s important not to play into that.
Realize their addiction is not your fault. It honestly has nothing to do with you-even in you’re the parent. Regardless of what the addict says, they do not drink or get high because of something you’ve said or done. This is simply a lie they tell themselves (and you) to justify why they use and to shift the blame and responsibility onto someone else.
Seek out the support of people going through the same thing. Groups such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Co-dependents Anonymous, Adult Children of Alcoholics-these and many more groups like them are filled with people who have had similar struggles. You would be amazed at the relief you can feel just from hearing other people tell stories that resonate with your own.
Getting better can seem like an arduous task -it’s easier, and more effective, when you have others to help along the way. Do you have an addict or alcoholic in your life and you’re struggling with how to cope? A licensed mental health professional can help you on your own journey to wellness. Please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 to make an appointment with one of our experienced counselors.