Someone I love is an addict! Help, what do I do?

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 - What To Do

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.

Drug Addiction Family Effects

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?

How can I help an addict?

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.

Newsletter Darkest Hour FiverrI 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.

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24 comments

  1. Chris says:

    Thanks for this informative post on addiction and how to deal with someone who is addicted, it helps to know what to do otherwise your well meaning help just seems to ineffective.

    Thank you for those resources.
    Regards

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Chris

      Yes, that is exactly what the problem is. Loved ones want to help, and they do try and help… but what they are doing is often not only not effective but makes the problem worse.

  2. Brad says:

    Hi Lynne,

    Well done on tackling a difficult and emotional subject.

    We all have an effect on those around. Hopefully always positive, but even our negtive influence can have a ripple effect.

    I am lucky so far in that my kids are too young (and too protected) to be exposed to drugs.

    However I am not blind to the fact that one day they will probably be in a position where they will have that choice to make. I just hope that we have done enough as parents for them to make good decisions.

    Do you have any advise on educating teens on addiction?

    Thanks.

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Brad

      Yes I know exactly what you mean. With kids I have my own opinion for sure! The first thing is that I was the type of teenager that would put anything I was told not to do on my “to do list”. Yes I was one of those teenagers. So when I was just told to not do drugs not drink… well you can guess what I went and did right? So these campaigns of “Just say No”??? Umm I’m not so sure about the effectiveness of this. I think maybe stop putting so much emphasis on not to do it, but educate about what could happen if they do try drugs. Does that make sense? And if they do try drugs and become addicted that there is help and that they can ask you for help.

      There is so much shame in using and being an addict. Perhaps if teenagers felt safe to ask their parents for help the problem can be stopped early?

  3. Garen says:

    First, Lynne, I am truly glad that you got help with your addiction. Life is to short to consume your life with drugs. I’m sure that when you were at your all time lowest you felt hopeless, but I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. Sadly, I have witnessed family members get into the “drug life” and just never pulled out of it. Eventually, everyone just starts distancing themselves from them.

    I really believe that a lot of addicts don’t really think of their family and those that care about them. Instead the addict blames everyone else for their problems. They just live in the moment and really don’t care about the future, but the addiction makes bad situations pure hell.

    I do have a question for you though. What do you do to help stay away from situations that remind you of your past. Is there anything you have changed or situations you know you don’t want to be in?

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Garen

      I can tell you that drug addicts do truly care, but are trapped and can’t stop. I know it sounds insane but that’s the way it really is. Then because we have damaged our families and caused so much trouble we sue more to block out those feelings, then we cause more damages, then we use more to block out what we have done. I know it sounds crazy but this is the pattern.

      What do I do to stay away from situations that remind me of the past? Well I don’t go clubbing or pubbing anymore 🙂 Life is completely different. They take about people, places and things. Everything must change in order to stay clean. I can’t even compare my life to what it was. One thing that does make me edgy is when there is an event, like a wedding with good friends from years ago. It just makes me edgy. I used to drink a lot at these sorts of functions.

  4. Garen says:

    Maybe “don’t care” wasn’t the right words. Possibly more selfish than anything else. Seeing how addicts get caught into the round and round battle of letting everyone down around them and then needing something to help stabilize their mind. I think a lot of addicts self medicate which eventually makes situations even worst.

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Garen

      Yes that is so right, you will never find a more selfish and self-centered person than a drug addict in active addiction. The great news though is that the addict can change, there is always hope. I am a very different person to who I was 7 years ago!

  5. Ian says:

    Hi Lynne,
    This is one of the most challenging life situations to deal with, especially when your loved one is in denial about his/her addiction. I think tough love is essential for the addicted person to find the strength within themselves. I prefer to think of tough love as “fierce compassion”. The part about boundaries is very important.
    I think interventions can be helpful if carried out compassionately and without violence, but sometimes they end up doing more harm than good, especially if the addict isn’t ready to recover. But at the same time, their lives are in peril so it’s really a difficult situation, where professional help tends to be beneficial.

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Ian

      Yes interventions can certainly turn ugly, and when an addict feels cornered or picked on their defense mechanisms will be fight or flight, neither of which is the desired outcome at all.

      The desired outcome of course would be for the addict to see the light and agree to go for help and follow it through.

      Because this is such a volatile situation I suggest professional help to assist with an intervention.

  6. Shaz says:

    Excellent points Lynne. I have a question that I’d love to hear your response to. How important do you think religion/faith is in getting a person out of an addiction? I do not mean it is the only way out – but would like to hear your thoughts on if you think it is helpful at all or not. And if it is, to what extent?

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Shaz

      I think religion can most definitely be helpful. The church can be a great source of support… but there is a BUT here. I wrote a page on religion for my website, you can check it out here. I am not religious and something I have come across often is that the addict and/ or the addicts family will rely solely on religion for recovery and I think this should be done in conjunction with a specialized addiction facility/ person. So yes use the church for support, for sure! But use that as part of the process, not the whole process.

      The other problem I have come across is that often the addict will have complete faith that God will cure him/ her. The belief here is that just prayer and faith will solve the problem. This is not the case, there is work to be done too. Prayer and Faith is very much a part of recovery but once again it is a small part of the process and not the whole.

      I hope this makes sense?

  7. Emma says:

    This is a very helpful and informative website 🙂 You are very brave to be so honest about yourself and to share your experiences. I bet many people will find this life changing!

    • Lynne says:

      Thanks Emma, I really hope it does help lots of people. It has already been so rewarding because I have had a good many people contacting me.

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Nick

      Thanks for the feedback 🙂 I am happy to be there for you, you were part of the counseling team that saved my life at Harmony Clinic when I was there for treatment, I will always have time for you!

      Congrats on launching your life coaching website nickaxcell.com, I am sure it will be a huge success!

  8. max santos says:

    wow, Lynne, your story is amazing. your book looks interesting as well will have to check it out. you are so inspiring for putting yourself out there to encourage others to get sober. great job do not stop stay strong.
    I could remember like it was yesterday when I suffered from an alcohol addiction 4 years ago.My family members tried talking to me for years and I just would not quit my addiction to alcohol. After reading an article I came to see what I was putting my family members through and decide to enroll myself into rehab. It was the best decision I could have ever made.

  9. Caroline Doherty says:

    Hi Lynne,

    I think your website has fantastic information and resources. You are an inspiration to others. I love the videos, they add such a personal element. You are really open and honest about your experiences. That is so refreshing.

    I would like to know at what point would you class someone as having a problem with drink? I have someone very dear to me struggling and to be honest so am I. It has impacted on my life in so many ways. It is so hard to watch someone you care about drink so often. You feel like you are just waiting for them to drink themselves to death. I am surprised I am writing this but I guess I need help and advice with this.

    • Lynne says:

      Hi Caroline, I am so glad you have found my website and I really hope that you find the information you need. I have actually just written a post for people that are asking themselves whether they are an alcoholic or not.

      The thing is that if someone’s drinking is having a negative impact on their life and on the lives of others it is quite obvious that there is a problem. I mean it is quite simple, someone that doesn’t have a problem with drink may get drunk once and cause a problem and then they know not to get drunk right?

      Well an alcoholic doesn’t do that. They will continue to drink and cause damages. They will then blame anything and anyone else instead of doing what needs to be done and stop having that drink right?

      So many people overthink this when it is so simple.

      You know deep down what the answer is already Caroline.

        • Lynne says:

          Caroline it is not stupid at all. The amazing thing about addiction is that it is not just the addict that is in denial, it is often also lots of people around the addict. Facing the truth is painful and scary for the addict and for the family.

          Try getting to an Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meeting, you will find the path so much easier when you are not alone.

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