Families Need Recovery From Addiction, Too

Families need recovery from addiction, too. Addiction is a family disease.

Families Need Recovery From Addiction, Too

Ian Koch, MS, CAS, LADC, Northeast Addiction Consultants. Families Need Recovery from Addiction, Too.

The following is a guest post by Ian Koch, MS, LADC, CAS and Operations Manager of North East Addiction Consultants, established to help families of drug addicts and alcoholics guide their loved one into recovery. Though they specialize in the northeast, their network spreads across the United States, with clinicians who have lived through personal addiction and/or lived with family members who have suffered for years. Ian can be reached by phone, 1-800-723-1073, or email, Ian@NorthwestAddictionConsultants.com.

Families Need Recovery From Addiction, Too by Ian Koch, MS, LADC, CAS

The alcoholic and addict often think that the only person they have harmed is themselves. This is far from the truth. The illness of addiction Families Need Recovery From Addiction, Tooand alcoholism plays a devastating part in the lives of everyone affected. Families become torn apart in numerous ways, and it is always caused by the addiction. This is why families need recovery from addiction, too.

It is important that families, providers, and the abusers themselves wake up to this notion. An addicted family falls victim to the actions of the substance user. It causes tremendous problems and can harm many people involved.

The addict bases all of their decisions on the substance, regardless of the circumstances, their thoughts always reflect back to alcohol or drugs. There are varying degrees to this dependence. In other words, some are particularly obsessed over the substance, using daily, and others only use on the weekends. However, the one who only uses on the weekends often finds they are ruminating over their drug of choice through the week. Regardless of the amount they use or the time they spend thinking of the drug or alcohol, they continuously go back to the substance which, in turn, continuously causes problems in some shape or form.

The addicted family is the same. It is broken into three distinct parts of behavior, or it could be said that the illness of addiction on the family has three distinct parts.

The first part is a compulsion. As the addict is trying to move through life, the addicted family member is compelled to control or try to control them. It becomes uncontrollable. When they start or engage in a conversation or another action, they cannot seem to put it down, leave it alone, or stop. This action leads to more confusion and tension. A good example is if a parent finds their son or daughter intoxicated. Sometimes they yell. The addict, undoubtedly, yells back and the parent gets louder. When they start yelling and lecturing, they find it difficult to stop. The insanity of all this is that the yelling is not actually going to do anything except make the situation worse, causing the tension to build.

The second part is the fascination or fixation on the addict. It is a constant thought or obsession on them. (What are they doing, where are they going, when will they come home, do they still have a job?) These are just a few of the questions that run deep in the mind of the addicted parent. I would like to mention that these feelings are deeper and more persistent than for the normal parent.

The above two are usually driven by an underlying emotional need or disturbance. These reactions do not mean that the addicted family member is mentally ill or unstable. This emotional need is deep with in a person. It usually presents itself in the “grass is greener” ideal. This notion occurs when we as humans convince ourselves that the grass is greener on the other side or in other terms things would return to normal if only: they would get sober, they would stop yelling, they would not steal, they would get a job, they would get married, they would settle down, they would get a job with an insurance benefit.  It is thought that if any one of these things would just take place, things would return to normal.

It is this deep emotional need that triggers the fascination, fixation, or obsession. When the fixation becomes so overwhelming, the addicted parent only has one option, to try and control the situation. Then, when they try to gain control, they, themselves, become addicted and cannot stop.

The good news is not every family member will be affected by the addiction. Similarly speaking, not every person who drinks alcohol becomes alcoholic. Looking at your own behavior compared to these signs and symptoms is a good place to start. The bad news is that if someone becomes affected, it is not going to go away when their family member gets sober. In fact with periods of abstinence it could actually get worse.Help is available from different support groups, consultants, and other providers throughout the northeast. Northeast Addiction Consultants has licensed counselors and addiction specialists trained to support you. You do not need to live in fear. You do not need to lose sleep at night. You do not need to give them your money. It is time that the family takes their life back. Assuming the addict or alcoholic is the only one who needs to participate in recovery is not fair. Recovery is available for the family, too and not only is it available, it is crucial in supporting the addict. Being in recovery yourselves will help you understand what they will need to do for lasting recovery. Get help before there is a crisis or the next tragic event happens.

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  1. I totally agree, Ian — for every one addicted person, there are usually at least a dozen other people who are negatively affected: parents, children, partners, siblings, grandparents, friends, neighbors, teachers, fellow students, employers, colleagues — and the list goes on.

    In most areas of North America, there is plenty of help available for addicts who want recovery. But unfortunately, this is not the case for the people who love them. As a result, the loved ones of people struggling with addiction are desperately struggling themselves — and often in isolation. Aside from programs like Al-Anon, there is little help available to them, and without realizing it they often become addicted to the addict’s addiction: when the addict is doing well, the loved one is doing well — and when the addict is not doing well, neither is the loved one. Eventually loved ones find themselves on the same roller coaster ride as the addict in their lives.

    Loved ones of addicts need to be shown how to get off that roller coaster by (a) learning about what they actually can and can’t control in their own lives, (b) understanding the crucial differences between helping and enabling, and (c) taking better care of themselves and living their own best lives, even while in this heart-breaking situation.

    Thank you for calling more attention to this huge problem!

    • Thank you so much, Candace, for adding your voice and suggestions for loved ones to follow to the conversation. As you’ve said, there’s a great deal of help and awareness about the importance of treatment for addicts/alcoholics, but not nearly as much for the family members and friends who love them.

  2. This is absolutely true, Ian – addiction effects all members of the family. It’s important for family members to seek recovery – oftentimes for codependency issues as well.

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