I am quite open about my addiction, obviously since I blog about it! I am open in my community and regularly post in Facebook groups reaching out to other addicts to contact me for help to get clean.
The result is that I mostly get phone calls from the moms of addicts. I find this really sad, because it reminds of what I have put my family through. Drug addiction family effects can be devastating. The addict doesn’t just suck him or herself into dark places but the entire family too. Everything revolves around the addict and the chaos that the addict causes.
Drug Addiction Family Effects
There are so many ways that drug addiction and alcoholism effects the family, from financial damages to safety risks. The list here is so long and I couldn’t possibly cover all the effects on family.
Here are just a few examples:
- Emotional pain, worry and upset. Think about it right, you’re a mom and your teenage daughter is out of control and on drugs… you don’t even know where she is and it’s 1am? I can’t even begin to think how this would affect me! And when she comes home and you ask her she gets aggressive and nasty with you?
- Verbal and emotional abuse. Yes an addict will be abusive towards the family, at the every least by being emotionally and verbally aggressive.
- Possible physical abuse and/ or sexual abuse.
- Child neglect.
- Safety risks by bringing drug dealers or other addicts to your home.
- Theft of money, household goods and anything else the addict can sell for drugs. The addict could steal from you, your work place, your friends or anywhere so you must be vigilant.
- Loss of money when addict says they need it to get out of a fix and there will be plenty of these when the addict loses a job, gets evicted, crashes their car….
So here I am painting the addict as a terrible person, well they’re not really. Addiction can turn the most amazing person into scum.
Your lovely son/ daughter/ wife/ mom/ brother is still in there, I promise you. And knowing the right way to handle the situation could mean all the difference.
So what do I advise you to do? Here are some steps you can follow to help your love one. They may not result in your loved one getting clean but they will help you to cope with the problem better.
These are my personal suggestions for helping your loved one. I am not an addiction counselor or a professional in the addiction field.
My experience is personal experience being an addict. I used for 15 years and I am now 7 years clean. I spent nearly a year in a drug rehabilitation center and I regularly attend 12 Step Meetings.
I have done a 1 year counseling course and spent a year working with addicts and their families in a drug rehabilitation center.
Step 1: You didn’t Cause it. You can’t Control it. You can’t Cure it.
So the first step is getting help for yourself. The 3 C’s is a common thing that is taught in family programs. You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it.
You have probably been through a living hell. You need support and help for yourself first. Remember you can’t help anyone when you have nothing to give. If you have been battling this problem for a long time you have nothing left to give.
So I suggest you contact the family side of a 12 step program. So contact Al-anon (the family group for Alcoholics Anonymous), Nar-anon (the family group for Narcotics Anonymous or Coda (Codependency Anonymous is a 12 step group that focuses on support to form healthy relationships). These groups are made up of people that also have loved ones that are addicts, so you can talk to them and get support.
Alternatively, or even better, in addition to, contact a counselor that specializes in family counseling for addiction.
If you are religious and attend religious services please contact your religious leader and get support from them. Lots of churches have addiction support programs. Get as much support as possible. While I think this is a great addition to my previous suggestions, please don’t only use the church. The church does not specialize in addiction problems and I mean this is the best way possible when I say that addiction cannot be prayed away. The 12 Step program is based on a higher powers, so use the 12 Step Program with God as your higher power. Include God in your strategy but don’t make God your entire strategy.
The focus here is to get support for yourself, not for your loved one. You will need it for this journey.
This may seem like something you don’t want to do, it may seem pointless or stupid, but please trust me that this first step is the most important part of this whole process. You cannot help anyone else if you cannot help yourself.
Step 2: Learn About Addiction
Prepare yourself for battle, learn about what you are up against. Like they say in meetings, addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. You have no idea what you are up against and you may be doing things that you think are helpful but in fact are just helping the addict to stay sick. You need to learn how to deal with your loved one, to deal with them with love but tough love.
You need to learn how to set your boundaries and stick to them.
You cannot change anyone else, but you can make changes to yourself, to the way that you do things. Through these changes that you make to yourself the addict may change.
This is a great book to read that will teach you a lot about addiction. it is also full of practical tips and examples. This will be a good place to start learning.
Step 3: Plan and Carry Out an Intervention
Please don’t do this step alone. Contact an addictions counselor and have them assist you with your planning of this step and carrying it out. You can even have the counselor with you at the intervention.
An intervention is where you and all significant others of the addict come together and have a show down with the addict. This must be done in a firm, yet loving way. It will be very hard to do and for this reason I suggest having a counselor present to help with everything.
An intervention serves these purposes:
- To present a united front to the addict and let the addict know the extent of the damages caused by his or her behavior. Hopefully this will break through the denial of the addict.
- To show a united front that cannot be manipulated out of. Addicts play people off on one another all the time and this is especially common with those closest to the addict.
- To tell the addict what boundaries are being set.
- To tell the addict what the consequences will be if he or she addict breaks any of these boundaries
- To give an ultimatum to the addict to get clean and get his or her act together. This can include that the addict must go to rehab and/or 12 step meetings, whatever you have planned with the counselor.
- To make sure the addict knows this is not an attack but an act of love.
Step 4: Sink or Swim!
This is the hard part but the addict must do this for himself or herself. You cannot do anything more for the addict. It will literally be sink or swim and you must not interfere with this process.
Remember that the addict needs to hit rock bottom before he or she will make any changes. By having an intervention this could actually help the addict hit rock bottom. When the addict knows that he or she won’t get any more money for drugs or be bailed out of trouble when he or she causes damages it may be the rock bottom needed.
An addict’s rock bottom is simply when the addict decides to stop digging. And when an addict thinks he has hit rock bottom he or she can always go down further. If the addict is not dead, the hole can be dug deeper can’t it?
Step 5: Stick to Your Boundaries and Carry Out Consequences
This is really important. You need to stick to your guns and be consistent.
Remember what I said about rock bottom? If you let the addict break the boundaries you set down in the intervention you are causing damage and letting the addict stay sick. There is no point in setting boundaries and then doing nothing when they are crossed.
How many times has the addict promised to get clean? How many times has the addict said sorry and promised not to steal money from you? How many times has the addict borrowed money and not paid it back?
So for example if you told your daughter that if she drives drunk or high with her child you will call the social services you need to do that. It will be hard but your daughter needs to face the consequences of her actions or she will never change.
If you continue letting the addict get away with this behavior nothing will change and you are actually preventing the addict from getting better.
If you have lost hope and think your loved one has no chance of getting clean, let me set you straight. I was a lost cause and I was the one all the counselors thought wouldn’t make it. There is always hope, just get started on the right path. Then let go and let God.
I wrote an ebook about my addiction – you can read more about that here. It will give you an inside look into addiction.
If you have any questions about this topic, or anything about addiction… perhaps you just want to chat? Please leave a comment and I will answer you as soon as possible.