Addiction doesn’t just affect the person caught up by the disease, it affects the entire family. Relationships between parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives can suffer. Arguments, accusations, pleading and broken promises can tear a family apart. Enabling actions or trying to control the situation can add to the strain.
What can you do when facing this trouble at home?
“Get help,” advises Gary Hendler, host of ‘Clean & Sober Radio’ in Philadelphia, a member of the Pennsylvania Department on Drugs and Alcohol’s Advisory Council and drug-free himself for nearly 36 years. That help is found in a peer support group setting.
“When you’re dealing with somebody who’s addicted the family can become as sick – or sicker – than the person who’s using. It’s such a drain and a strain – financially, emotionally, that you really need to figure out how to protect yourselves. These meetings help because you’re sitting there with people in the same situation as you. You’re not alone.”
He recommends Nar-Anon. “These are 12 steps groups for people – family members, loved ones, even employers, who are being affected by the person using. It helps you help yourself, which is most important.”
Nar-Anon is based on the Nar-Anon program, promoting a spiritual way of life to help you cope with the addiction problem of someone very near to you. Its Narateen is designed for the teenaged siblings, children, or friends of an addict.
Meetings for both groups are free and are located in almost every community. Meetings are anonymous and, because everything said in a meeting is held in confidence, members can freely say what is on their minds and happening at home.
Peer support groups can also be found through your church or synagogue, or by contacting your local mental association. Many county or local health commissions can also suggest groups located in your community.
Watching a loved one or friend losing control is heart-wrenching but Gary makes one thing clear, “You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it and you can’t cure it.”
While friends can offer well-meaning advice on ‘interventions’ and ‘enabling,’ support groups are made up of people who have ‘been there’ and ‘done that.’ They can help family members learn what they can and cannot do about a loved one’s addiction.
“People who’ve had no connection to something like this, most don’t get it. They think it’s a lack of willpower or a lack of parenting skills
and that’s absurd. It’s a disease,” Gary said. “When somebody gets diabetes, are you going to blame everybody? Cancer? No, it’s the same thing… the people there have gone through what you’re going through and still are. There’s comfort in that, you’re NOT alone.”