What is the best way for a family to face an addiction to drugs or alcohol?
There are basically two things that can happen here. One is that the family can go to Al-anon meetings and seek out support for the fact that they are dealing with an addict or an alcoholic in the family.
Two, the individual can go seek help at treatment or rehab.
Those are basically the two options that are available to the parties involved.
Now a concerned family is probably wondering: What can we do in order to convince our loved one who is struggling to go get the help that they need? How can we convince them to seek treatment?
In order for the family and loved ones of the alcoholic or addict to best know how to deal with this situation, it is my recommendation that they first go seek help for themselves at an Al-anon meeting.
Many people will initially object to this idea, saying that they don't feel like they should be the ones to seek help or support, that it is in fact the addict in their life that needs to go seek help and support.
However, experience has taught us that in order to maintain sanity and protect themselves from the chaos and madness of addiction, it would be wise for the friends and family and loved ones to seek support at a group such as Al-anon meetings.
If you go to Al-anon meetings they will teach you about healthy boundaries, and how to set those boundaries with the alcoholic or addict in your life.
While you will learn that you cannot directly force a person to want to recover from addiction, you can still have an impact on that person's path in life, and you could potentially bring them closer to surrender in a more timely manner.
How do you do this? By learning what enabling behavior is, and learning to identify enabling behavior, and effectively eliminating that behavior when dealing with the addict in question.
You may also need to bring some other key family members or friends to an Al-anon meeting with you so that they can learn how to stop enabling as well.
If an alcoholic or drug addict has several people in their life that engage in enabling behavior then it is very unlikely that such a person is going to seek help or treatment. The pain and fear that is involved with changing your life and facing reality is just far too great if there are people who are willing to enable you to keep abusing drugs or alcohol.
Enabling behavior can take many forms. For example, if you buy food for a struggling addict you may still be enabling them. This is because you are teaching them that if they blow all of their money on drugs and booze that someone will still provide for their basic needs. In effect, when you enable someone, you are teaching them that it is okay to continue on with their addiction.
So we have to learn how to stop doing that in a healthy way. At some point, you may have to take some risks in regards to how far you will go to bail out your family member when their addiction is getting them into trouble. At some point you may have to let them fall and skin their knee and experience some negative consequences due to their disease. Without allowing them to experience these serious consequences they may never get the motivation that they need in order to ask for help or change their life.
Now on the other hand, what can you do if you are the person who is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction? What is your best step in terms of turning your life around and recovering from total chaos and misery?
My number one suggestion to you would be to check into an inpatient treatment center. I know that this can be a very intimidating idea, especially if you do not know what to expect.
When I was still struggling in my addiction, my biggest fear about treatment was that they would somehow brainwash me into not wanting to drink or take drugs any more. It turns out that this is not how inpatient treatment works–they do not have a magic wand that allows them to magically brainwash you into sobriety. You do not have to fear going to rehab and suddenly being turned against your will.
Second of all, after I had been exposed to rehab a few times and realized that they could not, and did not brainwash anyone, I still held on to a pretty big reservation about sobriety itself, which was the fear that I would become a less likeable person if I were clean and sober.
My irrational belief that really drove my addiction was that I needed everyone to like me. If people disliked me it was a fate worse than death in my twisted little brain. So I lived my life in such a way that I was very shy, very passive, and very careful about not making anyone dislike me.
This irrational belief held me back from becoming my best self, and my true self. But suddenly, when I drank just the right amount of alcohol, I was able to break through that shell and become the “real me”–for a few precious hours.
After those magical hours flew by, I was just another miserable drunk who was once again chasing an elusive happiness in the bottom of a bottle.
So even though liquor and drugs “fixed” my flawed personality, it did not do so very consistently, and eventually my drinking drove me into the ground face first. Sometimes literally.
But that was the magic cure that I hung on to in my mind–that alcohol magically fixed my personality and made me into a better person. So if I were to give up drinking and drugs then I would become this boring version of myself that no one liked. This is seriously what was going on in my mind, and it was how I rationalized and justified all those years of outrageous drinking and drug use.
So when I finally surrendered to my disease and agreed to get help–for real this time–my whole life slowly began to change.
For one thing, I realized that I could still be a likeable person in recovery. And furthermore, I realized that I could still have fun in recovery as well.
This was quite a shift from my original beliefs that I was doomed to be a boring person that nobody every liked if I were to become sober.
And the truth was that my life just kept getting better and better in recovery. Not only did people like me, but I gained more and more friends and peers in recovery who genuinely cared about me, and I had tons of relationships that flourished in the first few months of my recovery journey. Not bad for an introvert, right?
So it is really a two part process–first the family of the struggling addict has to learn how to make healthy boundaries, and then the struggling addict has to figure out how to break through their own denial. If everyone plays their part correctly then it will help to move the addict closer to surrender much quicker. While you cannot force anyone to do anything against their will, you can certainly make healthy choices for yourself, for your whole family, and learn to set healthier boundaries.
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