Dear family members,
Addiction wreaks havoc on more than just the individual using substances. There’s no doubt you’re in a very difficult situation right now. For years, maybe even decades, you’ve watched your loved one sink deeper into addiction. It takes a toll on families. It took a toll on ours. But things can get better. We’ve been helping families find their way forward for more than 20 years. Family recovery is possible.
You are not alone. And we’re here to help.
What You Need to Know About Your Loved One’s Addiction
Alcoholism and addiction can feel like impossible hurdles to overcome. Without outside help, it’s easy to get sucked into your loved one’s illness. You may even start to believe you caused it or that you can fix it. So let’s take a look at what you need to know about your loved one’s addiction.
- You didn’t cause your loved one’s addiction.
Stop blaming yourself. Addiction and alcoholism are diseases. And like other long-term, progressive illnesses, it must be treated or it becomes fatal.
- You can’t control your loved one’s behavior.
If only you could wave a magic wand and make your loved one sober up, things would get better. Sadly, that isn’t how addiction works. And what’s even more frustrating is the more you try to control someone, the worse things can sometimes get. Rules and ultimatums don’t work in the face of this powerful disease.
- You can’t want recovery more than they want it for themselves.
It hurts to watch someone you love continue to harm themselves when the answer seems so obvious. You might be willing to do anything to get your loved one to stop using or drinking. But the truth is, until they’re willing to do the same, you’re fighting an uphill battle that you’ll lose.
- There’s no quick fix or magic cure-all for addiction.
Your loved one probably didn’t become addicted overnight. Addiction is a disease that affects the body, mind and spirit. Recovery is slow and steady work. But the great news is, once someone grabs a hold of recovery, change is immediate. Day by day, you’ll be able to watch the person you once knew come back to life.
Effect of Addiction on Families
Here’s a myth we hear from families all the time: “If my loved one can get sober, then we’ll be OK.” The truth is – it’s not that simple. Addiction is a family disease. That means that yes, the person addicted to drugs and alcohol is sick, but so is the family. That can be hard to hear and even harder to believe. But know that years of being in a close relationship to an alcoholic or addict means you have paid a heavy price too.
The effects of addiction on families are impossible to measure. There’s no part of your life that’s unaffected—your health (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual), job, money, friends and family, hobbies, and every other area of your life. In many ways, as your loved one’s life comes to a screeching halt because of addiction, so does yours.
Whether your loved one finds recovery or not, your life can change for the better. Our compassionate team at Discovery Place loves nothing more than watching a family come back together. However, it is important to remember that this doesn’t happen in every case. You don’t have to follow your loved one any deeper into their addiction – there is a healthy life waiting for you.
How Your Help Can Hurt Your Loved One
You didn’t cause your loved one’s addiction. However, there are things you might be doing that enables him/her to stay sick. Enabling is “helping” that does more harm than good.
Ask any of our parents, partners, siblings, you name it, and they’ll give you a long list of the ways they enabled us. Our loved ones will also tell you they wish someone had told them to quit enabling us sooner.
Does any of this sound familiar?
- Paying your loved one’s rent (or any other bills), especially when they don’t have a job and could be working
- “Loaning” them $20 here or $50 there
- Letting them move back home again or live with you rent-free
- Buying them another cell phone after they’ve lost it for the tenth time
- Making excuses to your family and friends why they nodded out at dinner, missed their niece’s birthday party, forgot to get anyone gifts for Christmas, etc.
- Bailed them out of jail or paid for legal support
- Funded multiple trips to drug and alcohol treatment centers
Been there, done that. We could add a thousand more ways we convinced our families to help us when they should have been saying, “No.”
At Discovery Place in Tennessee, we understand that family roles in addiction are complicated and difficult to sort out. It’s so painful to see your loved one destroying their life. Of course you want to help your addicted loved one, but that’s where you have to trust the process. Helping an addicted loved one that has no intention of ever stopping their destructive behavior is actually propelling their addiction. Every time you help an addict out of another scrape, you’re actually making it harder for them to experience the consequences they need to hit rock bottom and ultimately push them into recovery.
When to Help the Addict or Alcoholic in Your Life
There is no instruction manual for when and how to help the addict or alcoholic in your life. Substance abuse is complicated, and we strongly recommend working with a professional to help guide your decision making. Remember, when it comes to helping an addict that you love, your perspective is compromised. Here are some general guidelines of when to support your addicted loved one:
- If you ask them if they want help for their addiction, and they say yes.
- They come to you asking for help.
- Their life is in immediate danger. (In that case, you should call 911.)
Support and recovery looks different for each family. For some families, recovery might mean emotional support, some financial resources, a ride to treatment, or just a hug and an encouraging word. For other families, healthy support looks like firm boundaries with no communication at all until their loved one has taken some positive steps toward recovery.
We can help you walk through what’s appropriate for your situation with our Family Program at Discovery Place. It’s always a good idea to run your plan by someone who isn’t emotionally invested in the outcome.
Support for Families of Addicts and Alcoholics in Nashville
Whatever you do to help your addicted loved one you must remember that you don’t have to do it alone and you shouldn’t. You and your family deserve to experience your own opportunity to recover from your loved one’s addiction.
While your loved one is at Discovery Place, he will be totally immersed in recovery. Whether your loved one attends our program for 30 days, 60 days, three months, or up to a year, you now have time to catch your breath and devote energy to your own wellbeing. Family roles in addiction can change, and it can start with you.
Discovery Place also offers support for families through our staff, guides and special guests. We encourage all of those impacted by the effects of addiction to attend the workshops and meetings we host. This is your time to ask questions, connect with others, and gather tools to build or strengthen your own peace of mind. Family recovery is hard work, but together we promise to help you and your family establish a firm foundation to live a happy, healthy life.
Discovery Place also encourages all of our families to check out all the support for families of addicts and alcoholics in your local community and online. Here are a few we recommend:
- Al-Anon Family Groups. Al-Anon is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. (They’re a great resource for those whose loved ones identify as addicts too.) It’s free and meetings are held everywhere, including online. Attend at least six different meetings before you decide whether or not it’s for you. You can reach Al-Anon at 1.888.4AL.ANON (1.888.425.2666) or at al-anon.org.
- Alateen. Part of Al-Anon Family Groups, Alateen is for teenagers affected by someone else’s drinking. You can find more information about them here.
- Alcoholics Anonymous. While your loved one is at Discovery Place, he’ll be introduced to the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). He’ll also have an opportunity to attend AA meetings. In your own community and online, AA meetings are taking place all the time. To get a better understanding of what your loved one is learning, try attending a few open AA meetings. Or read some AA literature, most of which is available for free through AA.org. Find a meeting in your area here.
We have also found that most local communities offer qualified and professional family therapists, counselors and social workers. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the growing list of tele-health resources, ask a trusted family member or friend for a recommendation. Lean on the support of experts who are always available to help you navigate your loved one’s addiction.
Family Recovery Starts Here
You may have questions about Discovery Place and whether it’s the right place for your loved one – our dedicated team of professionals are here to help. Our sole mission at Discovery Place in Nashville is to give men the tools they need to live sober, fulfilling lives. Our admissions staff has thousands of hours of experience working with the families of alcoholics and addicts. Whether your loved one comes to Discovery Place or not, we’re here for you and your family.
Give us a call at 800.725.0922. You’ll talk to Brett, Travis or Wilson—Discovery Place alumni, in recovery, ready to help.