Addiction and the family is an important topic, because often the family is severely affected and vital to recovery. How do family members deal with addiction? After years of knowing someone one way, lovingly, like a father, brother, sister, mother, etc., the person begins changing as the addiction progresses and the behavior becomes more bizarre. Often the addict will behave in ways that appear cruel and indifferent, and this hurts loved ones who don’t understand why the person is changing in such a horrible and frightening way. Until a loved one understands addiction and can begin gaining perspective and objectivity, it’s difficult to not take the strange changes personally.
To the family member it seems as if the person addicted doesn’t love them anymore — they begin questioning themselves to see if they’ve done anything to create these changes. It’s a confusing time, especially for children. When an addicted mother, as an example, no longer spends quality time with her 10 year old son, it creates confusion and sadness in the child and quilt and shame in the mother. This creates a downward spiral as addiction progresses. The mother might try to deal with the addiction herself, making promises that things will be better only to relapse and making things worse. The child doesn’t understand why his mother can’t just do what she says she’ll do. The child might wonder what they’ve done wrong — this is an awful, heart-breaking situation, but it can be resolved.
Understanding addiction and the family is to understand that the addict must receive help. Deteriorating relationships become overwhelming, and when the family unit tries to get back to normal, the crazy behavior of addiction keeps tearing the unit apart. A 10 year old will not likely have the resources or understanding to deal with such a complex problem, but an adult, the husband, a brother, a mother, someone must step forward and address the addiction.
Understanding addiction and recovery is vital, then family members can use their leverage to get the addicted family member into treatment. There are professionals who know how to intervene in addiction with good results. The first step is the admit there’s a problem – the next step is to ask for help. Often when people come into treatment here at NewDay, it’s a family member who initiates the admission. Someone has to take the actions and understand it’s a medical issue and nothing to take personally. The addicted person is not in their right mind — they need help. Addiction and the family go hand in hand, and often family members need professional help also, or a support group, to deal with the confusion and emotional turmoil. If the family works together, they can usually heal and recover. And the good thing about children is their resilience — they just want their mother or father back — they eagerly forgive when there’s real change.