Someone in your family has a problem with alcohol or drugs. What can you do to help?
You might think that an alcohol or drug problem belongs to the person who is drinking or taking drugs. But if a family member has a problem, then you have a problem too.
Families operate as a system in which each family member’s behavior affects every other member’s behavior. The abuser’s behavior affects all family members, producing painful and difficult feelings in response. At the same time, the other members of the family – unintentionally – develop patterns of behavior that make it easier for the problem drinker or drug user to continue their substance abuse. This behavior is referred to as enabling. Here are some examples of enabling:
* Denying that there is a problem, or dismissing the problem as a small one.
* Rescuing the abuser from the consequences of his or her use, such as by “calling in
sick,” covering up for a broken promise, or lending money.
* Taking over the abuser’s responsibilities, making allowances or excuses, forgiving
unforgivable behavior or to continue trying to be loving and caring in the face of abuse.
* Reinforcing drug use by participating in occasions where it is used.
What to do
If you suspect that a family member might have a problem with alcohol or drugs, learn all you can about alcohol and drug abuse. Next, seek the help of a licensed healthcare professional who specializes in addiction. A professional addiction counselor can help you assess your situation and help you determine the best way for you to help yourself, your drug-using family member, or other family members. A professional counselor can help you deal with your own frustrations in dealing with a substance abuser and give you information about how to most-effectively confront your drug abusing family member. You may also find it helpful to attend an Al-Anon meeting where family, friends and loved ones of alcoholics and drug addicts share their experience, strength and hope as they struggle to cope and come to terms with the effects of addiction.