Any individual working to overcome an addiction knows of the long and challenging path ahead. But addicts aren’t the only ones dealing with the physical and mental roadblocks of substance abuse. Addicts don’t exist in a vacuum. They have coworkers, friends and relatives. They live with others, eat with others, socialize with others and mourn with others. They’re part of a community – whether involved or detached – that often feels the impact of their addictive decisions. For many members of that community, anther person’s addiction can become a burden. Many times, family members find that they too can become as sick and needy as the addict. “Family members fail to take care of themselves because they are so busy trying to fix and control the addict,” says Mary Roufa, community service manager for Rosecrance. “They lose sleep, can’t concentrate at work or school, are drained of their finances, and stop interacting with friends and other family members as their worries take over their lives.”
Families can seek help
Family members suffering from depression, sadness and anger due to someone’s addiction can find helpful substance abuse resources and seek treatment for themselves. They have problems that can be solved. Families can heal, often finding new ways to support their loved ones without constantly shouldering the weight and guilt of a child, sibling or other relative who’s undergoing treatment. In many ways, a family’s healing process can have a positive impact on the recovering addict, but that should never be the reason for seeking treatment, according to Roufa. “Instead, the prompt to get better has to come from the desire to live in the present moment and feel better themselves,” says Roufa.
Still, an addict in treatment can receive positive outcomes from witnessing his or her family’s improved attitude and stability, mainly by seeing humble, peaceful and focused relatives who are intent on managing their approach to addictions and their outlook on life. And if the person in treatment has a relapse, he or she may look to the family for reinforcement, encouragement and stability.
“It can be an example of the long-term approach to treatment,” says Roufa. “An addict or family member needs to recognize that there is no cure and that they need to work to stay on track.”
Eventually, the idea of treating addictive diseases with short-term treatment programs are replaced by the reality that addiction treatment is a lifelong process, one that addicts and family members can eventually learn to live with. “Managing their disease is just a welcome part of their life.” says Roufa. “They are able to play the tape through when faced with a difficult situation, reach out for help and not go back to old ways that did not work before.”