Help for the Family Member

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It has been suggested that addiction could be diagnosed seven years earlier by observing the behavior of family members than it could by looking at the behavior of the individual who is drinking. So is the impact of addiction on the lives of those of us who give birth to, fall in love with, supervise, or otherwise are involved in the lives of someone with the disease of chemical dependency.

With addiction to drugs the impact is more immediate and therefore more “crazy making” for those around the addict. The change in behavior is often intense and can make one question their own sanity. Promises to change are very believable time after time after time. The lies are believed because they are often not purposeful lies but promises that come from an honest desire to change and a belief, at that moment, that they will be able to carry out their promise to quit. The following tips were developed in order to help one cope in situations where addiction is affecting not only the life of someone you care about but your own.

1) Find a Self Help Group. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are world-wide groups of family and friends of alcoholic and addicted individuals who provide strength and hope. You are not alone with the problem once you have reached out to others who are dealing with the same or similar issues. Obtain phone numbers and call to gain the insight of others who have been in similar situations. The programs are anonymous and provide the ability to learn ways to cope by using the same 12 steps that are used in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotic Anonymous (NA) meetings. Go to the website links provided at the end of this article to find out more about these programs.

2) Talk to a professional. Choosing the best plan of action for you and your family members can be confusing. There is no one right answer, so it is important to take time to think over your options and run them by someone else who is not involved in your day to day life. It is often hard for others around you to be objective when they see the pain you are in. The EAP is a perfect place to explore your options. Let your family member know that they have EAP services available to them should they be willing to seek help either for themselves or as a family.

3) Identify supportive friends and family members. Think about whom you can share your concerns with. Who will listen and not place judgment upon you or the individual you are concerned about? Ask for what you need and recognize when you just need someone to “hear you out” and when you want or need feedback.

4) Abuse is unacceptable do not allow it to become a part of your life. At times individuals under the influence can become abusive. It is not OK to allow yourself or your children to be abused whether the abuser is drinking / using or not. This is a separate issue from the actual drinking or drug use. Seek help immediately.

5) Become educated about addiction and recovery. Much is written on the dynamics of addiction and the effects on the family. Being informed about what you can do and how to take care of yourself during the process is key to your recovery.

6) Focus on yourself and what you can do to improve your life. You did not cause the drinking/using, you cannot cure the other person, and you can not control anyone else’s drinking/using behavior. What you can do is focus on yourself and stop putting all your energy into trying to change someone else. It is amazing how much energy it takes to try to change something you have no power to change. Do not allow someone else’s behavior to affect your self esteem.

7) Purchase a daily meditation book and read it every day. Just the act of reading an inspirational page on a daily basis will sometimes provide enough support to help you be able to cope with some of the stressors related to living in addiction.

8) Know that help is available in many forms. Asking for help is a sign of strength. Reach out to your pastor, a trusted neighbor, a co-worker, a good friend, an addiction specialist. The most important thing is not to live in isolation and fear. Help through your EAP is only a call away.

9) Don’t cover up for the alcoholic/addicted person’s behavior. Covering up and lying for someone else just prolongs the disease. Consequences of one’s own behaviors are often the impetus to seek out help. Do not do for someone else what they should do for themselves. Don’t accept blame for anyone else’s behavior. Remind yourself that it is not your fault.

10) Take good care of yourself. Good self care is critical to maintaining your self esteem. If you feel like you have allowed your self esteem to erode, build it back one step at a time.

11) Drinking and/or using in order to stay connected to the alcoholic/addict does not work and could result in one’s own addiction. It is not uncommon for family members or significant others to try to bond by drinking or using with their partner. The results can be devastating. Seek out help for yourself if you find you are dinking too much or using drugs.

12) Seek help now! Do not wait until things get worse. If you are reading this your life has most likely been affected. There is hope of recovery for yourself and your loved one. Start on the path to a better life today. Call 757-398-2374 or long distance 1-800-EAP-3257 for an EAP appointment.