This is the familiar question most family members and loved ones have asked themselves. The short answer to this is a simple “NO”. Your loved one or family member is suffering from an addiction that is far more powerful than you or them. They are at its mercy. The crux of the problem lies in the addicts thinking. Individuals from all walks of life have developed addiction; the poor, the homeless, the rich, the successful, those with traumatic childhoods and those with loving and nurturing childhoods. Addiction can affect anyone, regardless of sex, age, race, religion or upbringing. No one is at fault when someone develops an addiction. It can be very hard not to place blame and look for reasons, but this is just counterproductive to the individual getting well.
Guilt and Fear
Family members and loved ones often experience crippling guilt that it is their fault, or that they have done something to make their loved one turn to alcohol or drugs. You may worry that an event or a reaction has spiralled your loved one into self-destruction. To be clear, addiction is an illness and the individual must be predisposed or have an addictive nature to go on to develop an addiction. There is no justifiable reason for individuals killing themselves. When they reach the stage of taking huge health risks, they are not thinking rationally or clearly. They are sick and require professional help and intervention.
Feeling guilt and fear around your loved one destroying themselves through alcohol or drugs can lead to all sorts of unhealthy behaviours on your part. It is important not to act strong emotions as you will only harm yourself and harm the addict. Your family member may sense the guilt and fear you are feeling and use this to manipulate you for money or shelter to feed their habit. If you give in to this, you are only enabling their addiction to carry on for longer. Few addicts will want to stop until the consequences of their addiction become too painful to bare.
You may think that your instinct to save your loved one from harmful consequences such as crime, homelessness or cold turkey is what is keeping them safe and alive. It is important to understand that whilst you intervene and prevent consequences they are unlikely to be sincere in any attempts to stop. It may be that they are asking you to pay a drug dealer or threatening to commit crime and risking jail if you do not give them money. Remember they are responsible for their own choices in their addiction, and you are responsible for yours. You are not to blame for any consequences that may come as a result. If you bail them out with money, it is likely that they will ask you again. When dealing with someone addicted to alcohol or drugs, it is important for both parties that you learn to say no. This can be extremely difficult, especially when you fear for your loved ones life or feel that you are to blame in some way. Addiction is a killer illness but Addicts will only ask for help when they have reached what is known as a rock bottom. A “rock bottom” is where they reach a place internally where they feel they can no longer carry on as an addict or alcoholic, this is usually brought about by consequences of their actions. Along with a rock bottom, your loved one will usually have a moment of clarity, where they can see the truth of their pitiful situation. This presents a window of opportunity where they become willing to ask for and receive help. Enabling an addict with financial support will only delay this from happening.
Whilst addiction is no one’s fault, the addict and the family are responsible for their own choices in dealing with the problem. It may be that you need help and support to come to terms with not being able to control the individual. There are many helpful organisations that can assist you in dealing with the emotional roller coaster that loving an addict presents. It may be that you will need to distance yourself from your loved one until they become willing to recover; seeking support for yourself will assist you in dealing with the guilt and fear this is likely to trigger in you. It is natural to want to help, but addiction does not respond to traditional methods and often-tough love is the only option left.
For more information on organisations that can support you in finding help for family members, please call and speak to a member of our team who will be happy to provide you with the details.