Family Resources for Treating Addiction
Drug and alcohol addicts aren't the only ones affected by their addictions. Family members suffer too whether it's the spouse, siblings, parents or children of addicts. The effects range from emotional and psychological to social and financial. Don't ignore this problem. You will need help just as your addicted loved one does.
Fortunately, there are numerous family resources for addiction. We'll look at ways to cope with this situation and where to go for help.
What Family Members Say About Addiction
Want to know how others see their addicted family members? The following are findings from a USA Today/HBO poll with family members of a drug or alcohol addict.
- Three-quarters of U.S. adults who have a family member suffering from the disease of drug or alcohol addiction think that people who are addicted to drugs can make a complete recovery from their addiction.
- Emotional and Devastating/Horrible are the words that most often asked to describe the effects of a family member's addition.
- Seventy percent out of ten U.S. adults who have a family member suffering from the disease of drug or alcohol addiction say that a family member's addiction has had a major or minor effect on their emotional or mental health.
- Family support/ pressure were most often cited as the primary reason the family member was able to overcome addiction.
- Almost half of U.S. adults who have a family member suffering from the disease of drug or alcohol addiction say their family member has never sought treatment.
Five Ways to Cope
Robert J. Meyers, Ph.D., at HBO's Addiction Project lists ways to cope with unhealthy family behaviors (i.e. an addicted family member):
- You can let your loved one's problem get worse or help them get better. "Learn alternatives to nagging, pleading, and threatening." The choice is yours.
- "Small carefully timed changes will carry you the furthest."
- Your emotions—frustration, anger, exhaustion—are responses to current situations. If you change the way you react, the situations will change and so will your feelings.
- Ask for help from family and friends, particularly those that have had similar experiences.
- Be patient. The problems occurring took months or years to manifest. Don't expect change overnight. Work at in small steps.
The best thing you can do for your loved one and yourself is to get the addict into treatment, which is usually easier said than done. Often times an intervention is needed.
In an intervention, family and friends confront their loved one about the consequences of their addiction and ask that person to accept treatment. The primary outcome of the intervention is to get that person to say "yes" to treatment immediately.
Family Resources for Addiction
Families Anonymous is a 12-step support group for those family members affected by another's drug or alcohol addiction. Like all anonymous groups, there are no fees, no community funding, no government grants, no last names used, no forms to fill out, no formal signup.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is a great place to start for alcoholism research. The site provides dozens of articles, resources, and links on alcoholism.
The Surgeon General's Family Guide to underage drinking is a good place to start for facts on your child's drinking.
Al-Anon is strength, hope, and support for family and friends of a problem drinker. Whether you're growing up (Alateen) in a family with a problem drinker, have a spouse, friend or loved one who is a problem drinker, or you grew up with a problem drinker, Al-Anon meetings may help. You are the focus of Al-Anon meetings, not the alcoholic in your life. The focus is on you.
If you're a young person and have been affected by someone else's drinking, consider attending an Alateen meeting. Even if that person has stopped drinking, you still may need help dealing with the damage done.
How do you tell if your teen is using drugs? Follow the guide at the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. You get tips on what to ask, how to approach your teen, the signs to look for, and the risk factors.
Did you know that one in five teens has tried to get high with a prescription drug? And that many of these teens steal their drugs from their parents. The Lock Your Meds program gives you tips for keeping your prescription drugs out of the hands of your kids.
Addict in the Family: How to Cope with the Long Haul is a book on drug addiction and can be read online. You can read the condensed version or download the full PDF version at no charge.