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Crisis Intervention: What Families of the Addicted Should and Shouldn’t Do

The nature of most families is that when one member of the family is hurting, everyone hurts. When there is an alcoholic or drug addict in your family, you naturally want to help any way you can. Unfortunately, many members of an addict’s family make the same common albeit crucial mistakes. Here we explain them and offer several things you can do to help your addicted family member in a way that actually benefits them and their recovery.


Believing “it can’t happen to our family”

Denial is one of the commonest things that families of addicts share. The truth is, no family unit is inherently immune from the devastating effects of drug and alcohol abuse. Addiction may happen in any family, regardless of social status, wealth, and education. Despite their  vigilance, many families find themselves affected by the behaviour of an addicted loved one.

The best way to deal with an addiction in the family is with rigorous honesty. The worst thing a family member can do is to criticize the addict or tell them that their dependence on drink or drugs is a failure of will power. Ostracizing a loved one because they are addicted is akin to blaming a cancer victim for their own illness. Alcoholism and drug addiction are not symptoms of a weak mind or lack of self control. Addiction is a serious illness that can be treated and should be considered as such.


Thinking “it’s just a phase that will pass”

Again, this sort of belief is detrimental to the recovery of the addict and the family as a whole. Drug addiction is a life-long illness that may be treated, but never finally cured. Mayo Clinic explains that drug addiction is a multifaceted health problem that can have dire consequences, such as seizures, brain damage, psychosis, and even death.

Mayo Clinic also notes that addiction to drugs and alcohol can cause serious, life-altering events, including HIV and STD infection, accidents, work related problems, and failure at school. Legal troubles, financial hardship, and suicide are often associated with addiction, especially in a person who feels ostracized from their family circle. If your loved one is in the throes of alcoholism or drug addiction, you must take the situation seriously while offering love and support in the addict’s attempts to get clean and stay straight, no matter how many times they try and fail to stop using their substance of choice.


Believing “our family can handle this alone’

Addiction is a problem that may affect every member of the family, but it requires more than the family to solve the problem.  Well-meaning family members who try to force the addict to stop using may actually make the problem worse. Many persons who are addicted will suffer from withdrawals when they no longer have access to drugs or drink. Fortunately, a skilled rehab centre may offer medical interventions that lessen the addict’s withdrawal pain. These kinds of medical treatments are generally not available to the average family. You can learn more about recovery details from this site.

The NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that there are a number of rehabilitation processes than can help the addict as well as his or her family to survive –and even thrive– in the wake of drug addiction. Professional rehabilitation services are carefully designed to help the addict understand their addiction and to stop using. Rehab followed by regular meetings can help the addict stay clean long after their weeks in rehab are complete.


Giving up on the addict

Families are often the only ones who can bear to stick with an addict they love. In fact, many addicts have nobody else to turn to in a time of crisis, and drug abuse is certainly that. When a family agrees to simply “live with it,” the addict’s chances of a healthy recovery are lessened severely.

If someone you care about is showing signs of substance abuse and addiction, level with them as best you can. Ensure the addict knows that you love them and only want what’s best for them and for the entire family. Love and compassion can go far to helping an addict recover.

Alice Tomlinson works closely with patients who have addictions in her role as substance abuse nurse. Her articles seek to raise awareness and understanding and appear in numerous places online.