Family and Friends

There’s nothing that compares to that sick, frightened feeling of answering the telephone late at night and hearing your loved one on the other end – obviously drunk or high. Or, maybe they don’t call or come home at all, which is even worse. There might be a co-worker who comes to work smelling like alcohol and who is not performing up to her potential. Family members and friends of people who have alcohol and/or drug problems often don’t know what to do or where to turn for help.

If this is the case for you, read on. The information on this page is very helpful and will give you a place to start. Also, call us! We can explain our services to you. If the person in your life who is abusing substances is asking for help, encourage him or her to call us.

We can help. Call us at 866-242-6670.

In addition to contacting Heartland Center for help, there are ways family members can cope with their loved one struggling with addiction. Below you will find five coping strategies for dealing with addiction in the family. These coping strategies were developed by the Missouri Recovery Network.

  1. Understand That Addiction is a Disease much like diabetes or heart disease, alcohol and drug addiction is a chronic illness with roots based in genetics, environment and social influences. In other words, reaching recovery is not a matter of willpower. Just as an individual would not choose to develop diabetes, an addict does not choose to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. When the family members and loved ones of an addict begin to understand addiction as a disease, they can truly accept their loved one’s struggle and help him or her work towards recovery. Understanding will eliminate the negative judgment that their loved one chose to tear at the seams of the family, but rather, the disease took control and he or she desperately needs your support.
  2. Are You Enabling? When coping with addiction in the family, one of the most important concepts to understand is whether you are enabling your loved one’s addiction or not. When an addict’s behavior – controlled by the alcohol and drug abuse – is creating chaos within the family, an enabler will make excuses for their loved one. An enabler will also avoid talking directly about the problem or approaching their loved one to seek professional help.
  3. Family Therapy – There are many family therapy groups available to you and your loved ones coping with addiction, such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon. Attending support groups like these will help you make connections with others struggling with addiction in the family. Having the support of others that understand what you’re going through can make all the difference. Attending professional family therapy is another option for coping with addiction in the family. Meeting with a family therapist can help improve the communication between you and your loved ones, as well as, providing a safe environment to express the often sensitive feelings associated with addiction: anger, sadness, confusion, fear, etc.
  4. Try to Maintain the Family’s Normal Routine. Maintaining a “normal” family dynamic can help the whole family cope with addiction. Don’t let the disease control everyone’s life! This is not to say to ignore the problems of addiction, because that will slip you into an enabler’s role, but making an honest attempt to maintain the aspects of your family dynamic that express love and happiness can be a reminder of what life is like without addiction and spark the journey to recovery. Also, if mom is the person that normally goes to the kids sporting events, but now she’s looking to get better in an addiction treatment program, dad should try to make as many sporting events as possible. Remind yourself and your kids that everything is going to be OK and mom IS going to get better. Or, if you are the parent of an addict, don’t let his or her addiction take up all of your time and attention. Your other kids, spouse, friends, etc. should not be forgotten in the process. When your child finds the right path to recovery, the rest of your relationships are still intact and everyone can support one another in this long journey.
  5. Don’t Forget To Take Care of Yourself! When a loved one is struggling with addiction, we often put his or her needs in front of our own, but this sort of behavior can be harmful to you, the addict and the whole family. Caring for yourself first, both emotionally and physically, allows you to be a better support system for your loved one in need. Caring for yourself can include finding ways to minimize stress affiliated with addiction in the family. These activities can include eating healthier, trying to get regular sleep, exercise, and engaging in fun social activities. Don’t completely put your loved one’s addiction on the back-burner, but reducing your stress and anxiety improves your overall mental health and better prepares you to support your loved one’s recovery.

A great movie, based on the real-world situations that families dealing with addiction face, is “When Love is Not Enough … the Lois Wilson Story.” This movie is based on the true story of the enduring love between Lois Wilson, co-founder of Al-Anon, and her alcoholic husband Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. William G. Borchert, the writer, describes the movie as “The story of a deep, passionate and unquenchable love that overcame pain and humiliation to flourish again in the sunshine of recovery.” If you have not had the opportunity to see it, we definitely encourage it.

Today, family recovery is a reality for millions and the hope, help, and healing of family recovery has become the most powerful way to break the intergenerational cycle of alcoholism and addiction in the family.