By: Astharte De Los Santos
Let’s face it, addiction is a terrible disease that affects millions of Americans all over the country. It is like a raging force that takes everything in it’s path. According to SAMHSA, most people begin using drugs as teenagers, then move on to harder drugs. The saddest part of addiction, is that it does not discriminate. Many have fallen victim to it’s hold. One of the biggest issues in addiction is how it affects families and loved ones.
The Affect Addicted Loved Ones Have On the Family
Family members or friends, most of the time are the one’s who support and encourage the addict during the recovery process. They are usually right there going through the highs and lows of addiction with their loved ones. It is very disheartening for a mother to watch her athletic son, win trophies and academic awards to begging her for money on one of those nights he pleaded he would quit using. Or, a father to watch his little girl, grow up into an addict who sells her body, to support her addiction.
The toughest part about watching your loved one sink deeper into addiction, is feeling helpless. That maybe your efforts have gone to waste. That you are allowing this to go on and in some cases, enabling them. It is easy to feel this way, especially if you financially support them. It is easy to fall into the blame game with yourself and other members of your family.
Addiction affects families greatly. Not just from problems from the drug abuse, I feel it tends to bring out underlying issues that families have swept under the rug of shame.
Showing love and support during the recovery process is crucial. Even if you aren’t a family member your support matters. Especially when family has turned their backs on the drug user, which is very common.
Here is a list of values and practices that are important when helping your loved ones through recovery:
Some may think that once the addict physically stops using their drug of choice, that they are cured. Actually, this is when the hard part begins. At this stage most addicts are learning new ways and habits to help cope with their addiction. The addiction is still there, they are just making different choices.
If we are lending our help we must understand that recovery is a life time journey. We must try our best to understand addiction with the notion that we will never know exactly how an addict feels, but we can try.
When people who have an addiction problem, start to self- reflect on their own lives, they might come across very personal memories or accounts from their past. They might have been victims of abuse or neglect, or might have done things on drugs that were out of the ordinary. That is why trust is important. A good support system would be family members or friends, that the person struggling with addiction, can just open up to whenever they have the urge to share and reflect. This is very therapeutic for recovering addicts and it’s even better when they can trust those around them.
When a person has an addiction, there are moments they are not thinking clearly, especially when they are having flashbacks and memories of their former drug use. Sometimes they can even run into someone that can trigger thoughts of former drug abuse. Their commitment to recovery is still shaky, so as their loved ones, you have to guide by example. That is how they need you the most, so you can teach them better ways to cope with addiction. To guide is to lead, so as a support system to the addict, we cannot engage in things that would entice the former addict back into their old lifestyle. You must take on the responsibility of being a role model. Through your actions and kindness you can relate hope. Former addicts have to retrain their desires and impulses for said drug. Although recovering addicts are devoting themselves to getting better, they are also seeking guidance. They are vulnerable and scared, grasping on to their loved ones for a better perspective on how to do this thing called life.
A community is built on a wealth of resources. Depending on the community you reside in there are countless of things you can do to enhance your loved one’s recovery process. You can find a support group and it doesn’t have be about drug addiction. It can be a hobby. You can find traditional support groups, usually on the internet, through a hospital or clinic. Now a days there are websites and meetings and, whatever your interest may be, you can find support in other people who are interested as well. For those who are a bit shy, there are forums like this that can help with talking about your former drug addiction with people who have also been addicts, from all walks of life. Also there are community centers that offer trainings, job opportunities and activities that can help take your loved ones mind off things.
Before you consider being a part of someone’s life who is struggling with addiction, make sure that you are able to commit. It doesn’t mean you have to be with them all day or “babysit” them but it does mean that if they need to talk and your kind of tired, make a sacrifice for them. Be there for them in ways other’s can’t. Show your support for their recovery by being there as much as you can. If you can’t be there with them physically, then a phone call can help. Just so your loved one can know you are there for them and very much involved in their recovery.
I leave you with this quote:
“Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm … As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
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