Help for the Family

Addiction is a family condition that stresses the family to the breaking point, impacts the stability of the home, the family’s mental health, physical health, finances, and overall family dynamics.

Living with addiction can put family members under unusual stress. Normal routines are constantly being interrupted by unexpected or even frightening kinds of experiences that are part of living with alcohol and other drug use. What is being said often doesn’t match up with what family members sense, feel beneath the surface or see right in front of their eyes. The alcohol or other drug user as well as family members may bend, manipulate and deny reality in their attempt to maintain a family order. The entire system becomes absorbed by a problem that is slowly spinning out of control. Little things become big and big things get minimized as pain is denied and slips away.

Without help, active addiction can totally disrupt family life and cause harmful effects that can last a lifetime.

Support groups such as Alanon and families anonymous are available for the friends and family of people suffering from addiction (alcohol and drugs, respectively). Individual therapy for each family member, not just the addict, is important for the mental health of both the addict’s spouse or partner and children. Also a family meeting with a therapist can help improve communication among family members, rebalance the family dynamic and give family members a safe environment to express their anger, fear and other concerns.

If you’re worried about your own, a friend or family member’s alcohol  or other drug use, it’s important to know that help is available.

Helping a loved one struggling with ANY TYPE of drug dependence, remember Alcohol is a drug, can be heartbreakingly painful, but with help, it can be remarkably rewarding.  At times, it can seem so overwhelming that it would be easier to ignore it, pretend that nothing is wrong and hope it just goes away.  But in the long run, denying it or minimizing it, will be more damaging to you, other family members, and the person you are concerned about.

Don’t Wait, Act Now.

Alcoholism and other drug dependence are complex problems, with many related issues. And, although there is no magic formula to help someone stop his or her drinking or drug use, here are some important suggestions:

Learn All You Can About Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

Utilize the links and resources we have provided.

Speak Up and Offer Your Support

Talk to the person about your concerns, and offer your help and support, including your willingness to go with them to get help. Like other chronic diseases, the earlier addiction is treated, the better.

Express Love and Concern

Don’t wait for your loved one to “hit rock bottom.” You may be met with excuses, denial or anger, but be prepared to respond with specific examples of behavior that has you worried.

Don’t Expect the Person to Stop Without Help

No doubt, you have heard it all before — promises to cut down, to stop, but it doesn’t work. Treatment, support, and new coping skills are needed to overcome addiction to alcohol and drugs.

Support Recovery as an Ongoing Process

Once your friend or family member is receiving treatment, or going to meetings, remain involved. While maintaining your own commitment to getting help for yourself, continue to support their participation in ongoing care, meetings and recovery support groups.  Continue to show that you are concerned about their successful long-term recovery.

Behave exactly as you would if your loved one had a serious illness. What would you do if they were diagnosed with heart disease or cancer?

An addiction destroys families as much as it destroys individuals. Living with an addict is both heartbreaking and exhausting. Family members are torn between how to help the addict and how to avoid being sucked into the addict’s world.

Don’t Cover Up, lie or make excuses for them and their behavior.

Don’t Assume Their Responsibilities:  Taking over their responsibilities protects them from the consequences of their behavior.

Don’t Argue When Using:  Arguing with the person when they are using alcohol or other drugs is not helpful; at that point they can’t have a rational conversation.

Don’t Feel Guilty or responsible for their behavior, it’s not your fault.

Don’t Join Them:  Don’t try to keep up with them by drinking or using yourself.

Things you can do for yourself

  • Take care of yourself. Living with an addicted person is exhausting. You also need time to recover.
  • Avoid self-blame. You can’t control another person’s decisions, and you can’t force them to change.
  • Do not work harder than the person you’re trying to help. The best approach is to not do things for the addict, but instead to be an example of balance and self-care.
  • Being a caretaker is not good for you or the addict. Understand that there is only so much you can do to change another person.
  • Ask for help. Talk to a professional. Go to a support group such as Al-Anon or families Anonymous.
  • Do not argue or try to discuss things with the addict when they are under the influence. It won’t get you anywhere.

You can’t stop drinking or using for another person.”

Useful links:

Adfam is the national organisation which campaigns for children and families affected by someone else drug or alcohol misuse. Read more (to reveal)

We talk to family members to make sure we know about the issues that are having an impact on them, and we particularly want to rid society of the stigma which so often disturbs their lives.

We also work on projects which we hope will bring new ways of supporting children and families and also raise the awareness of the importance of including families in someone’s treatment and recovery. So many people in recovery recognise and acknowledge the crucial role a supportive and understanding family has played in their journey. Let’s not forget that families have their own journey.

All of us at Adfam are there because we believe in what we do, and the people we work with and support. Famileis need to recover too!

DrugFAM was established in 2006 by Elizabeth Burton-Phillips after losing Nick, one of her twin sons, to heroin addiction. Read more (to reveal)

As part of her recovery process Elizabeth wrote and published the book ‘Mum, can you lend me twenty quid? What drugs did to my family’.  The response to the book was amazing and has since been translated into 5 languages and adapted to at Theatre in Education stage play.

DrugFAM’s primary purpose is to provide a lifeline to families, friends and carers affected by someone else’s substance misuse.  DrugFAM aims to ensure that those who turn to us are listened to, understood and supported.  We believe passionately that no-one should struggle with the stigma from wider society or be left in isolation, fear and ignorance of local and national support.

DrugFAM has three strategic aims:

  • To support those affected by someone else’s drug or alcohol misuse
  • To support anyone who’s been bereaved by drugs or alcohol
  • To provide education and raise awareness of the impact of someone’s addiction on families, friends, carers and local communities.