Alcohol or drug addiction takes a toll on the addict or alcoholic, but also affects their family members negatively. As parents or loved ones watch and try to help, the addict can get worse and worse. The family members can go through a downward emotional spiral, much like the one the drug addict goes through. Family members can experience emotions such as concern, shame, guilt, anger and apathy.
When a family member first learns of the drug or alcohol abuse, the first emotional response is typically one of concern. They aren’t yet sure how bad the addiction is and they haven’t gotten far down the path of an attempted recovery. They know that the drug or alcohol problem exists and that it will adversely affect their loved one. They want to help. They may try to get into communication with their family member to find out why they turned to drugs or alcohol in the first place. They may try to reason with the addict, attempting to show them the detrimental affects the drugs or alcohol are having in their life. They will likely research effective drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and try to convince the addict to check into one.
If the help the family member offers is refused or the addict won’t listen and the drug problem is continuing, the family member may start to feel some shame that the problem exists and that they haven’t been able to successfully handle it. They may start to cover for their loved one, making excuses for their behavior to friends, employers, or other family members. They haven’t given up on helping the addict, but they aren’t sure what to do now. Their initial attempts have met with failure and they continue to see their loved one’s addiction getting worse and causing harm in their life. They know that they want to help, but they don’t want everyone to know about the problem.
What to Do As A Family Member of Someone Addicted
As the dwindling spiral continues, the family members of the addict can start to feel increasingly responsible for their loved one’s condition. Their attempts to get the addict into an effective recovery program haven’t been successful. They have been covering for the drug addict or alcoholic, which hasn’t helped the situation. They can begin to feel guilty about the condition the addict is in, blaming themselves for not being able to stop it.
At some point the family members are almost certain to experience fits of anger, whether that anger is directed at the addict because they refuse to change, at the situation in general because it seems unfair or hopeless, or inwardly at their inability to get control over the situation and effectively help. They may lash out at the addict or at each other. This inevitably makes the situation worse.
If the addiction continues without a recovery on the part of the drug addict or alcoholic, the family members may eventually arrive in a feeling of apathy about the situation. Their attempts to convince the addict to get help haven’t made an impact. By this time the addict’s personal and professional lives are almost certainly in a bad condition. The family members may begin to feel that there is nothing that can be done about it.
There is Always Hope
At any point in this dwindling spiral of emotion, it is important for the family members to keep in mind that, despite appearances, something CAN be done about it. Others have gone through the heartbreaking process of watching their loved one struggle with addiction. You are not alone and there are effective groups you can reach out to for help. Many people do recover from addiction, and your loved one can do the same.