Imagine, as a parent, suddenly discovering one of your teenage children is using or abusing drugs or alcohol. Perhaps you do not need to imagine because you have already experienced it. If so, you are probably aware that once the initial shock wears off, parents are likely to step back and ask, “Is it my fault?”
Wondering whether your own actions are to blame for someone else choosing to use drugs or alcohol is all too common. Often the question is accompanied by feelings of extreme guilt and/or regrets of past actions. However, please understand that every drug and alcohol user is responsible for the choices he or she makes. They alone are responsible for their own behaviour. Only the individual user can make the choice to drink or take drugs; only the user can choose to stop.
So, is there anything family members can do for the drug or alcohol user? Absolutely. However, it does depend on the severity of the situation. In other words, if a family member is a casual user rather than an addict, one course of action can be taken. If the individual were addicted, a completely different course of action would be appropriate.
While it is true that family members are not at fault for causing drug or alcohol use or dependence, they are often guilty of enabling the user. Enabling is engaging in specific activities or attitudes that encourage the user to continue his or her habit. Unfortunately, enabling a drug or alcohol use could help him or her to eventually become an addict. Here are just a few examples of what enabling looks like:
- Financial Support – There are times when family members provide financial support knowing that the individual will use the money to purchase drugs or alcohol. That financial support can be by way of direct cash assistance, or by otherwise meeting the financial obligations of the individual so he or she is free to spend their own money on drugs or alcohol.
- Covering Up – Drug and alcohol users will begin acting irresponsibly as their use slowly evolves into abuse and dependence. Family members will often make excuses to cover up for the irresponsibility under mistaken belief that they are helping their loved one. In reality, covering up is only making a bad situation worse.
- Blaming Others – It is very easy for family members to blame others for the behaviour of the drug or alcohol user. Blaming others absolves the family member of any personal responsibility in the matter. This only encourages him or her to continue what they are doing.
- Solving Problems – Drug or alcohol use that is already on the road to becoming dependence results in a number of problems in the life of the user. Rather than letting the individual suffer the consequences of his or her actions, family members step in to solve those problems. This is just another form of enabling.
- Issuing Threats – The deeper into drug or alcohol use an individual delves, the more likely his or her family members are to begin issuing threats that they do not keep. How does this enable the user? By teaching him or her there are no real consequences to their actions.
Once again, we want to stress that drug or alcohol use among a family member is not your fault. He or she alone is responsible for their actions. However, you are responsible for making sure your attitudes and actions do not enable them to continue with their behaviour. You must do everything in your power to separate yourself so that you are not making drug or alcohol use possible.
This may mean you have to cut off any and all financial support that you may be providing. It might mean you have to stop taking phone calls on behalf of your loved one. It might even mean you have to ask your loved one to leave your home. These things might be difficult and painful, but they are also necessary.
Other Things You Can Do
In addition to recognising and stopping enabling behaviour, there are other things you can do to help your loved one. For example, drug and alcohol users still in the early stages of a problem are often helped when family members show genuine concern that translates into emotional and mental support.
You can show that support by letting your family member know you are concerned about his or her well-being while also offering to help them get treatment for their problem. The type of treatment necessary all depends on the severity of the problem.
As an example, let us look at the casual alcohol user who is afraid he or she is on the path to eventual alcoholism. The first step in treatment would be to see a GP and explain the drinking problem to him or her. The GP is likely to recommend group support as well as one of several medications that can reduce alcohol cravings or make drinking physically uncomfortable.
The role of family members would be to encourage the individual to attend group support and to provide a listening ear when the individual wants to talk. Support would not include giving the individual money so that he or she can go out drinking on the weekends.
If a drinking problem is more severe (i.e., abuse or addiction), treatment must be focused to address the severity. The most serious cases of addiction will require a combination of detox and psychotherapeutic rehab. Successful therapy can last between 4 and 12 weeks or, in some cases, even longer.
Finding the Right Help
It can be very frustrating to try to figure out the seriousness of a drug or alcohol problem in order to get the appropriate kind of help. However, that’s why organisations like Addiction Helper exist. Our primary function is to make sure those in need get the kind of advice and counselling that will actually address the problem rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet.
When you call Addiction Helper, you will speak to a trained counsellor who has extensive experience and knowledge dealing with every level of drug and alcohol use and abuse. You will also be working with a counsellor who has a genuine heart of concern and compassion for you and your family member.
Hopefully, your call results in a preliminary assessment of drug or alcohol use rather than abuse or addiction. A use scenario is a lot easier to deal with than full-blown addiction. Nevertheless, if it appears as though your loved one is an abuser or addict, we can help you access the right treatment.
It Won’t Go Away
We started this discussion by dealing with the question, “Is it my fault?” Unfortunately, there is a companion thought that goes along with that question for many family members. It is the thought that drug or alcohol use will eventually go away on its own, without any outside intervention.
Most of us are able to casually use alcohol without ever developing a problem. However, the fact that you are visiting our website indicates you suspect there is already a problem evident in the life of a loved one. If a problem does exist, it is highly unlikely it will go away on its own.
Some estimates suggest that between 5% and 10% of casual drug and alcohol users eventually go on to become dependent. However, the number is much higher among those who are showing signs of abuse. The thing to understand is that your loved one may be a drug or alcohol user now, but he or she may also become an abuser later on. If your loved ones use does become abuse then his or her chances of eventually becoming an addict rise exponentially.
Even if the person you are thinking of is only a casual user of drugs and alcohol, it is important that you do not sweep it under the carpet in hopes that it will go away. It is important for you and your family to address the situation in a way that shows genuine concern and a willingness to help.
More than one recovering alcohol or drug user has said it was the support of family members that helped him or her finally overcome. That’s the type of thing you want to hear as well. That will not happen if you just ignore the problem. And in fact, ignoring it might enable the individual to graduate to abuse or addiction.
Call Us Today
It might be that you do not know what to do on behalf of your loved one. That’s normal. That’s why we encourage you to call Addiction Helper today. We know what to do because it is all we do. We work with counselling organisations, support groups, charities, and private rehab clinics all over the UK to provide the support and treatment users and abusers need.
If you are willing to call us for help, we can help you determine where your loved one is in relation to alcohol and drug abuse. Then we can recommend the most appropriate course of action for your circumstances. If necessary, we can even help you arrange treatment. There is no need for you to stand idly by and just hope for the best. Get involved by getting in touch with us.
Help for family, friends, and close ones is just as important as the help people suffering with addiction need. Seek support to find the right path.