Anyone who has seen the film Beautiful Boy, chronicling a father’s battle to help his son break his drugs dependency, will have a little insight into the heartbreak addiction inflicts on families.
Addiction is something that can threaten and destroy not just the person who is addicted but their family as well. It can cause lifelong consequences for children and is proven to increase depression, anxiety and risk of future addictions in those who have parents with addictions. It can smash apart relationships of all kinds – spousal, parental and sibling.
So, how do you avoid the worst of the wider impact of addiction when it begins to become an issue for your family?
Attack the shame and stigma
The real-life son who inspired Beautiful Boy, Nic Sheff, has spoken about the early difficulties his parents had in speaking and being open about his addiction to people outside of the family.
When his father finally opened up to a friend, he was surprised by the reaction. His friend immediately shared the story of someone else he knew in a similar situation.
In an APB Speakers video, Nic said: “It seems like this really shameful thing but almost every single person is touched by addiction in some way. People are a lot more open-minded and non-judgemental than we give them credit for.
“When it came time to getting help for me, my dad and mum felt very alone too because they didn’t know which programmes to send me to or who to trust. Everyone has different opinions about what’s best.”
Embracing the three Cs can help families and those close to people who have addiction issues.
The three Cs are: I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it, I can’t control it.
Truly accepting these statements helps people to realise they are not to blame and they cannot change the situation alone. All far easier said than done.
You are not the first family suffering and you are not the only family suffering.
Seek support for yourself
Whilst all people want to do when a family member is dealing with an addiction is to convince them to get help, in order to do that it may be necessary for family members to get support themselves first.
Addiction takes its toll on everyone and finding new strength in seeking out others who have experienced the same thing can bolster you to keep going.
If you are at a point where your own mental health is suffering or you no longer know what to do next, outside support can help you move forward and rebuild yourself to give you the strength to continue trying to help them.
It’s natural to be dealing with feelings of anger, regret, blame, betrayal, even guilt in relation to a family member’s addiction. Addiction tends to lead people to fail to meet obligations and let down the people around them.
Adfam, the national charity working to improve the lives of families affected by drugs and alcohol, is a good resource.
Learn about your loved one’s addiction and treatment options
Educating yourself about the substance or behaviour your loved one is addicted to will help you to better understand what they are going through.
It may help you to understand that they can’t ‘just stop,’ they are ill and need help. That said, their behaviour as a result of their addiction may be unacceptable and you do not have to continue putting up with that.
You can let them know you love them and want to help them get the support they need but in the meantime, you are not willing or cannot continue to be at the behest of their addiction too.
Finding out about addiction treatment options will help reassure and remind you that people can and do recover and ‘grow beyond addiction,’ as the motto of one rehab centre says.
In addition, learning about treatment options will mean you have insight and information at your fingertips to influence the conversations you have with your loved one and can offer to them if and when they’re ready to hear it.
The best treatment and rehab programmes will have ways of involving families in the recovery process, knowing that continued support is vital for you and the person recovering.
Breaking free from addiction even when your loved one can’t
Working through the steps above will help families to break some of the power addiction has on their lives even when a loved one is in its grip.
It’s not possible to force anyone who is afflicted by addiction to break free from it themselves. The work ahead of them is tough and it’s for them to do. They have to commit to it and even then they may face relapse. The road to recovery is a tough one or them and you.
Addiction brings huge challenges and huge turmoil and sadness, but there are positive steps families can take to reduce and cope with the impact it has. Whilst breaking free from addiction may only be possible when the person who is addicted takes the necessary steps toward recovery, it is possible for families to loosen addiction’s grip.