In many cases of addiction, the family members and loved ones of the substance abuser often suffer greatly. The stress and emotional turmoil that builds over weeks, months or years of watching an individual struggle addiction affect onlookers in a unique way.
Family members of addicts often have a hard time grasping why the individual continues to hurt himself/herself in such a way. Addiction leaves a trail of pain, transgression and betrayal in its wake which can be hard to comprehend or make sense of.
In the urgency of getting a loved one off to rehab, the needs of the family unit are often neglected or forgotten. In truth, the family and loved ones are an addict’s strongest assets for support. As such, we recommend some of the following tools for families coping with heroin addiction and substance abuse habits.
Facing the Truth About Addiction
Facing the fact that your loved one has an addiction is, in and of itself, a feat. Coming to terms with their struggle and lending supportive encouragement takes courage and strength. Even though you yourself may not be going through the cycle of addiction and treatment, it is normal for family to experience personal stress and anguish in the process.
Addiction itself is both a mental and biophysical condition, precipitated by bad choices and furthered by a cycle of physical tolerance and dependency. In simpler terms, an addict faces both mental and physical cravings to use drugs. Such urges are known to cloud judgment and reasoning, and cause criminal or otherwise immoral, transgressive behavior in pursuit of more drugs.
At times, you may have been betrayed, stolen from, yelled at or shut out. Although this conduct is drug-driven, the hurtfulness of such things make it hard not to take them personally. Consider the following tips for coping with addiction in a family member:
- Establish your own support structure. Talking with friends, family or like-minded groups who have endured a similar struggle can do a great deal of good.
- Do not enable the addict. Support, encourage and cultivate a sober life–but do not enable the addict to easily obtain or use drugs. Providing money to an addict isn’t always a positive way to encourage their sobriety. Make sure your actions aren’t furthering the substance abuse and, in turn, aggravating the situation for you at home.
- Known when to get help. Where the substance abuse situation has become highly dangerous or out of hand, or the addict refuses to get help, seek the guidance of a professional counselor or interventionist.
- Maintain positive communication with the addict. It can be tough at times to communicate calmly and openly with someone whose actions you disagree with so heavily. However, a strong relationship without the barriers of angry outbursts or reactionary behavior can be vital in getting the addict help right away.
Allowing the Addict to Make Amends
Addicts often report feeling tremendous guilt for their wrongdoings committed while abusing drugs like heroin, cocaine, meth and prescription drugs. In the course of your loved one’s recovery, afford them the opportunity to make amends and address these transgressions. Unburdening heavy guilt and negative emotion is key to future success in sobriety.
While your loved one is in treatment, talk to his/her counselors about ways you can be involved in their rehab journey:
- Regular supportive visits
- Care packages/letters
- Assistance with future goals and planning
- Involvement in aftercare and “exit strategy” planning
You may find it beneficial to read some of the same principles, handbooks or guidelines that the addict learns in treatment. This is a supportive gesture, but also may assist the addict in making a smooth transition once back at home in his/her old environment.