It’s been said that addicted people can’t truly get well until they accept the nature of their disease and choose to accept help. People who utter this statement may believe that addicted people are engaged in a solo battle against their own destructive urges, and that no amount of outside help would be of any benefit at all. This sort of statement can make a family feel helpless, but thankfully, it also isn’t altogether true. While experts agree that an addicted person has a significant amount of individual work to do in order to heal, there is a lot that a family can do in order to ensure that the treatment takes hold and brings about real changes. Their work may begin long before the addicted person sees the need for care, and it may continue for the rest of the person’s life.
Families might easily describe an addiction’s impact on a beloved family member. The person who is addicted, however, may have very little insight into the nature of addiction. Some of that dysfunction comes from the damaging nature of common substances of abuse. For example, in a study in the journal Brain, researchers found that people addicted to cocaine selected more pictures of cocaine in a test, and had lower levels of insight about those choices, when compared to people who didn’t use the drug. Its chemistry seemed to make the brain function at a sub-optimal level, blocking the ability of the people to see their actions clearly, and make good decisions as a result. It’s a common finding among people who abuse drugs, and families who live with someone like this may be all too familiar with the symptoms of denial this lack of insight can cause.
- The family is exaggerating.
- The drug use is completely under control.
- The person can stop the drug use at any time.
- The drug use is private, and of no concern to anyone else.
Breaking through this denial is difficult, but an intervention can help. Here, a qualified mental health professional leads a discussion in which each family member has the opportunity to outline how the addiction has changed the person, and the group asks the addicted person to get help. It can be a difficult talk, but it can also be vital for the person in need. If the person needs help but refuses to get that help, an intervention may be the perfect way to turn the tide and allow the healing to begin.
Entering a treatment program is a big decision for a person with an addiction, and someone like this might be overwhelmed by the number of choices available. For example, the person might learn from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that about 90 percent of people who get addiction care do so in an outpatient setting, but the person might feel as though outpatient care isn’t quite rigorous enough to really help with the issue at hand. While people who have addictions should have a say in the selection process, they just might not be up to the task of finding facilities and making good choices about their futures. Families can help by researching facilities in advance, and asking good questions about the type of care provided in each facility. Pulling together a list of suitable choices, and explaining why each facility might be good for the person in need, can reduce the amount of decisions the addicted person needs to make, and that might reduce the stress the person feels.
Smooth the Path
- Transportation to the facility
- Payment for care
- Insurance authorization
- Care for dependent children during the treatment process
- Care for pets and household affairs during treatment
These niggling details can keep addicted people out of treatment programs that could help, as they might seem like insurmountable obstacles that just can’t be handled in a timely manner. Families can help by ensuring that all of these issues are attended to before treatment begins. They might work with facilities and the insurance company, for example, or families might pull together detailed plans regarding care for the addicted person’s children and pets. With each planning step handled, there’s one less reason for the addicted person to stay away from treatment. Families that make treatment seem inevitable and easy to integrate with the addicted person’s life may make treatment just a little more likely.
Participate in Therapy
Families of addicted people are often asked to enroll in therapy sessions alongside the person who has an addiction. In these sessions, the family has the opportunity to learn more about the nature of addiction, and the family can also learn how to communicate a bit more effectively and perhaps work through some of the trauma and damage that has taken place as the addiction process has moved forward. It can be troubling for family members to consider therapy, as they may feel as though they don’t need to change in any way. After all, they didn’t take drugs or drink, and they didn’t jeopardize the health of the group, they may think. Why should they change? The truth is that addictions can change everyone who is involved. Families can bicker and complain, and they may develop all sorts of bad habits that can keep an addiction alive. For example, in a study in the journal Behavior Therapy, researchers found that addicted people who were married were more likely to relapse when they felt as though their spouses were criticizing them. Just the perception of criticism was enough to push these families past the brink. Family therapy can help these couples to form more helpful communication styles, so there is a lowered likelihood of discord. Family members might also develop fixed roles as the addiction process moves forward. Someone in the family might be the group’s scapegoat, always getting into trouble for minor offenses. Someone else might be the caregiver that keeps the group together. Someone else might be the overachiever, trying to make the family seem happy and well adjusted to the outside world. Breaking down these roles can be difficult, but family therapy can allow people to see the role that addiction plays in these maladaptive habits. In therapy, families can work through these issues and heal as a group. Each member of the family might feel better, and the benefit for the addicted person can be profound. For example, in a study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, researchers looked at the sobriety rates of couples that had been through therapy together, compared to couples that didn’t go through this therapy. The researchers found that men were more likely to be abstinent and less likely to be arrested for drugs when their wives also had therapy with them. It’s clear that participating in therapy like this can make a big difference for people with addictions. With this help, they may really get better.
As treatment moves forward, it’s all too easy for addicted people to consider dropping out of care. They may feel as though they have their addiction issue under control with the little bit of help they’ve received, and that they can handle the rest of the healing process on their own. They may also feel as though the lure of drugs is just too strong to ignore, and that returning to use just might be preferable. While families may not be able to force the person to stay enrolled in care, there’s good reason for families to push hard for continued cooperation. After all, according to a study in the journal Addiction, longer stays in care are associated with better treatment outcomes. Studies like this suggest that dropping out could lead to catastrophe for the addicted person and the people who love that person. Families can help by reminding the addicted person of the importance of care on a regular basis, and they can be certain to reward and praise any strides forward the person makes as care progresses. They can also ensure that all of the promises they made at the beginning of the treatment process are kept as care moves forward. Continuing to care for children, driving the person to appointments, handling more of the household tasks and helping to pay for care can all help to ensure that the person stays motivated to learn, heal and grow.
Addictions are considered chronic conditions that can be kept under control, but they might never be fully healed. As a result, a person with an addiction might always need a little assistance from the family in order to avoid a relapse. Being loving and kind can be difficult, when the addicted person has likely caused a significant amount of pain throughout the years, but families can work on building up the bonds of love and support, and they can work to keep words of blame and harm out of the family vocabulary. If the person begins to slip back into bad habits, spending time with drug-using friends, for example, or discussing the need for a drink or a hit after a bad day, there’s no shame in discussing the addiction openly.
Families can express their concerns about the trouble they see coming down the pipe, and they can work with the addicted person on possible solutions.
Perhaps a few touch-up sessions with a counselor are in order, for example, or perhaps the person should go to a few more support group meetings. By discussing these issues openly, families can ensure that the addicted person doesn’t make a tragic mistake that could easily be avoided. At Futures of Palm Beach, we believe that aftercare is an important part of the recovery process. We encourage our clients to stay in touch with us, and we step in when we think our clients are making missteps that could lead to a relapse. If you’d like to know more about this, and how we work hard to ensure the long-term success of our clients, please call. We have operators standing by to help you.