Addiction Is A Family Disease

Recovery is defined as returning to a normal state of health or getting back what was once lost; hope, faith, trust, self-respect and relationships. It is a process of personal exploration that results in restoration. There is also an opportunity for a better life for all who are involved.

Logically, taking away a person’s drug may leave you with the same person who started taking drugs in the first place, that is unless they have changed their relationship and thoughts about using drugs and wanting to quit. If that does not occur, likely there will be a return to harmful habits for the addict unless attitudes, thoughts and emotions change. Let’s be frank, relapse does happen. But on the other hand, many do transform their life if they consider more than the chemical that alters their moods and thoughts. This process of change is more like a discovery, not a recovery. Ending addiction involves learning how to deal with life without drugs and alcohol taking over all life. And not just exclusive for the person in recovery, but to various degrees for all who are in a relationship with them.

Alcoholism and drug addiction doesn’t just affect the thoughts and behaviors of the person addicted. It also leads to destructive attitudes and behaviors among close friends and family members. If you know someone struggling with this kind of problem, maybe you’ve been living in denial, sweeping the problem under the rug, following behind your addicted loved one and trying to mitigate the consequences of the addiction. Perhaps it’s a major point of disagreement in the household or it’s the silent elephant in the room, stamping out any kindness that was once there. Either way, you’ve likely developed some behaviors that are affecting both of you in a negative way and that harmful conduct won’t correct itself all on its own. If what’s been described is in your life, it’s almost like you are addicted to helping the addict.

Since the most basic definition of addiction is not being able to stop doing something you want to end on your own, you could say that you are addicted to this relationship. And it’s really hard to turn away because real love doesn’t give up. Right? Well, it’s not a lack of love that heals, in fact love is the source of healing of the soul. But becoming aware of these behaviors and changing your way of thinking about yourself, your loved one and the addiction is the essential first step in restoring your life and the lives of those in your family. You have to be aware that you have taken on a position that’s dependent on the addicts wellbeing for you to be happy- and since they are not emotional healthy, neither are you. That’s commonly called codependency.

Codependents are likely to be obsessively concerned with another person’s problems to the extent that they neglect their own needs and desires. So codependency occurs when you engage in learned behaviors, attitudes and feelings that result from adapting to the dysfunction in the relationship.

If you’re codependent, you may be obsessed with your loved one’s drinking or drug abuse, worrying constantly about the consequences of the addiction. You may be living in denial to some extent, either by lying to other family members about your loved one’s substance abuse or avoiding contact with people because you don’t want to have to talk about it or explain anything. You don’t want anyone to know how bad it can get. You may react irrationally or even violently at times to circumstances related to the addiction. You may have extremely low self-esteem due to neglecting your own physical, emotional and spiritual needs because your focus is solely on your loved one. You may have misplaced anger toward your loved one that ends up aimed at the kids or the dog or your next-door neighbor. You may compulsively engage in activities that help you cope with your reality, such as shopping, eating, exercising or surfing the Internet. Your mood may be entirely dependent on your addicted loved one; if they are in in a good mood, you’re in a good mood. If they are in a bad mood, so are you. Right?

Then there are the enabling behaviors that support your loved one’s substance abuse, either directly or indirectly, and they boil down to removing the consequences of your loved one’s addiction; often out of love, sometimes out of fear, but almost always to the detriment of your loved one, yourself and the rest of the family.

You may use drugs or alcohol with your loved one so you can keep an eye on her and not have to worry that she’ll try to drive under the influence or stay out all night. You may keep your feelings inside, afraid to upset your loved one by nagging or insinuating that you don’t trust him.

Maybe you accept your loved one’s justifications for abusing drugs or alcohol. You may minimize the situation, telling yourself it could be worse.

Perhaps you protect your loved one’s image, and your own, by working to minimize the consequences of the addiction. You are making excuses, bailing them out of tough situations or taking care of their responsibilities for them because they are unable to do so. You may go out of your way to make it appear as though everything at home is just wonderful. You may even feel guilty when your loved one suffers consequences of the addiction because you weren’t able to make things better.

If you relate to what’s been described, in any way, you need healing too. Your attention has been focused on the other person who’s life is out of control and now you need to be conscious of what your needs are- emotionally, physically, a spiritually. You need to use this process called the 12 Steps too. Plus, it helps keep your loved one motivated during treatment because you have a better knowledge of all the aspects of addiction. You are much more likely to be able meet them where they are at during this phase of their life.

Going through the Steps enables you and family members to safely voice feelings, concerns and questions about your loved one’s addiction. It helps to defuse strong feelings of anger, fear, confusion and stress related to the addiction. Plus, it educates family members about enabling or codependent behaviors that should be avoided. By working the 12 Steps it provides the opportunity for you and other family members to develop a toolbox of strategies for taking care of yourself and helping your loved one navigate a life of sobriety. The Steps can help you identify and address mental health issues among family members, such as depression and anxiety disorders, and it can facilitate referrals to appropriate mental health professionals.

Going through the 12 Steps is as much about addressing and working through your own issues as it is about supporting your loved one’s recovery.