Addiction - A Family Illness
There is no doubt that addiction is a family illness. Someone using drugs and alcohol affects family members and often ties them into a painful and exhausting cycle that is difficult to break. Families often only can see the destructive behaviour of the one drinking or using and so attempt to help through implementing various strategies. Advice, incentives and warnings are often the first line of defence in approaching a family member. When these attempts fail, the natural response is to try harder to reach them. Advice becomes more directive, frustration and fear leads to arguments where threats of consequences are made. Your loved one deals with these confrontations by drinking or using and you are left hurt and frightened. The cycle repeats and is difficult to break. We believe that any Intervention process should involve all those affected, here is why.
The Elements of Addiction
Addiction is a painful experience for all of those involved. Guilt, shame, regret, resentment and fear is a driving force that perpetuates the addiction cycle. Drinking and using is the solution for the addict desperate to find relief. Consequences of their drinking creates more pain and so the drive for relief is increased. The dysfunctional cycle of the addict is mirrored by family members also desperate to initiate change in the addicts behaviour. Attempts to bargain with them and promises made to stop create hope and short term relief for family members. Repeated disappointment when they continue to use turns to resentment. Feelings of guilt often arise within Mothers and Fathers who wonder “Where did I go wrong” and underlying fear drives loving families to try harder. The family dynamics are dominated by focus placed on the person drinking and other family members, such as siblings, feel unheard. The illness then is spreading like a rippleover water, affecting everyone within the family system.
Breaking the cycle
Families who come to us are often experiencing a sense of hopelessness. Nothing has worked and their efforts have left them depleted. A difficult truth to hear, is that there is nothing you can do to make your loved one stop drinking or using. However there is a way for you to break the cycle of addiction you are caught in. Breaking the cycle of addiction has to start with recognising that you are embroiled within this cycle. Focusing on your loved one and their addiction has not worked and so take some time to focus your attention on your own wellbeing. A mother might say at this point, “If I had time I would, but I have to try and help him” This preoccupation with fixing the situation has its roots in the worry and fear that has grown and is difficult to change. If an aircraft is in trouble and the oxygen masks are to be used, the cabin staff insist that you put the mask on yourself first! While this is obvious in a situation like that, it is not easy to see within this situation and even harder to implement.
Getting Help - Intervention
Our family intervention services have given families direction and support in breaking the cycle of addiction. We work closely with family members as a group, and individually. Our approach is to work with you to make changes that are effective in allowing healing in all of the family.
The work we invite you to engage in, can be challenging and yet we have found that families engaging in this process have had success in convincing a loved one to accept help, and given families tools to engage in their recovery.
If you would like to know more about our intervention services, please feel free to contact us to arrange a call to discuss your situation.