If you are or have ever suffered from an addiction and fought the disease until you felt like you would never win, you understand that you were not the only one affected. As a matter of fact the impact on loved ones is traumatic. It destroys relationships and hurts everyone involved. But addiction is a disease, so should that fact play into it? Would you be angry at your family member if they had cancer or diabetes and it took a toll on the whole family?
This is a question that goes into the minds of every family and every addict. It’s a very difficult question to answer, but there are some absolutes either way.
First there are no addicts that don’t regret the pain they caused. There are no addicts that don’t wish they could take all the pain and suffering that they’ve caused and make it go away. Some may vocalize it and verbalize it in different ways and others may not even talk to other people about it but that’s the truth.
Next, there are no families of addicts who don’t have some resentment towards their loved one for the pain that they’ve suffered. No matter whose fault or whether it is a disease or not, it does not make the pain any easier to bear.
So how should the addict feel about that pain that they’ve caused others while fighting the disease they have? And what can they do about it if anything? They need to do something and here’s why;
Addiction unlike other diseases often has behaviors associated with it that drastically and dramatically affect family members and loved ones.
Like stealing, lying, cheating, even physically harming others. These are some behaviors that do not often occur with other diseases like cancer or many others. Two things must be in place in order for this to work. First there must be a genuine desire on behalf of the addict to help heal those that they harmed. Second there has to be a willingness on behalf of the hurt people to forgive and to genuinely forgive. If those two components don’t exist there is no possibility for a new start for that family.
In groups like AA and NA ( which I am not a big fan of) there is a step to ” make amends” with those you have hurt. However saying your sorry is rarely enough. There needs to be a mutual willingness to work together to heal a sa family. This can occur through therapy effectively. It can also help tremendously if the family of the addict comes to terms with the fact that nobody wants to be an addict. They must also come to terms with the fact that addiction has been scientifically proven to be a disease. A great resource for families to understand the details of this is the Recovery Research Institute.
I encourage all families to study this site and become educated on addiction before deciding how to address the addict in your family. It is the leading tool for cutting edge information on the disease of addiction.
So does the addict have an out, because it is a disease? Is this what I am implying? No I am not at all. I am saying however that it is a two-sided street to recovery for the family affected by addiction. If you are a family that relies on guilt, shame, embarrassment, or similar tactics, you are likely driving your loved one closer to suicide than being able to quit their addiction.
Any addict would do anything possible to avoid and eliminate pain they have caused their loved ones. But they must be given the opportunity to help in the healing process. You, as a family must engage and become familiar in what to do, how to talk to your addicted loved one, and what boundaries to draw and what ones not to.
Even is an addict gets clean, if there is nothing but resentment and anger from their family then no healing is possible.
During the course of serious addiction there may be good cause to remove the addict from the house due to any threats of harm to the family or other issues. That may have to be part of the process. That does not mean there won’t be a day that you all can be reunited. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
Addiction is a cruel and dirty rotten disease. It takes no prisoners and steps on anyone in it’s path. It can literally break hearts without even trying. It is straight from the pit of hell in my opinion and it hurts way too many people today. The sadder news is that the success rate of addiction treatment centers ion the USA is around 10%. Yep – you read right, 10%.
It takes alot of work and effort for the addict to get well because we do not serve them very well. And groups like AA tend to reinforce to the addict that they are powerless to do anything about their addiction. That is why they also enjoy a 10% success rate. I will note that faith based rehabs and treatment centers do actually have rates of success as high as 80% but not all are willing to allow God into their recovery.
I am not telling you to feel sorry for the addict and ignore their destructive behavior patterns. I am telling you that they want out as much as you want them out. So treat them like the diseased person they are. I cannot tell you how harmful to the recovery of an addict when they have no family support. I have sat in groups both as a patient long ago and as a professional for 20 years and listened to addicts cry about how their family has given up on them. You know what? Most of them give up on themselves too.
So although this is a brief post when it comes to addiction, I think its worth leaving it right here because this is such a critical part of helping an addict to het through recovery. Family support. When you go to the Recovery Research Institutes website you will find all kinds of resources like what language to use when talking to an addict, and many other valuable tools that can expedite recovery,
Remember, nobody – not one person on this earth wants to be an addict.