Often, addiction is looked upon as a personal disease: it only affects the person taking the drugs and consuming the alcohol. Families strive to find their loved ones help through different avenues such as rehab or special meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous. While it is important to find your loved one the help they may desperately need, what about the personal health of family members involved in this difficult situation?
Through decades of research and observation, addiction is quickly becoming coined as a family disease. It no longer only affects the central person. It affects everyone in their path. Like an octopus, it has tentacles that wrap around families tightly. They grab hold of every aspect of daily life and eventually penetrate the hearts and minds of families.
Why Get Help When You Are Not the Addict?
Too often families fail to see how the recovery journey of their loved one starts with them. It is hard to remember to take care of one’s self in these times. To answer the question of why let’s look at a few reasons taking care of personal needs is important.
For starters, the personal health of a person can take a turn quickly. The top reason for this is stress. Stress stemming from a loved one’s addiction can lead to serious health problems. A person can experience high blood pressure, heart attacks, panic attacks, and even stroke all from too much stress. The more stress the body is under the more likely a person is to have a compromised immune system leading to sickness they just can’t kick.
A human body can only take just so much cortisol running through their system. Once too much is apparent, mental health issues can arise. Anxiety and depression are in the top spots for popping up in the lives of families dealing with addiction. Along with these monstrous diseases comes sleep problems, digestive issues, and uncontrollable emotions.
The bottom line is that helping yourself can truly help your loved one. Having a clear mind can give a person insight into the situation and better decisions can be made. Taking care to nourish the body will produce the strength needed to face each day. For those struggling with addiction, having family members and friends show support in the rehabilitation process is crucial. It could mean a higher percentage rate of completion and successful sober living.
How Does a Loved One Get Help?
Understanding the need to take care of one’s self is the first step in getting help. Sometimes this understanding comes like a light bulb moment when your loved one realizes their need for help or a personal realization of just how bad the situation has gotten becomes clear. Similar to the way an addict may need to hit rock bottom before realizing they have a problem; family members must do the same. No one wants to believe someone they love has become addicted to drugs or alcohol.
To take the steps needed for help, loved ones can utilize many available tools:
- Support Groups – Loved ones coming together to share their personal stories, words of encouragement, and tears is a fundamental piece in recovery for families. These groups consist of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, and friends. Each member is there for the sole purpose of lifting each other up and helping addicts become sober. An example of this is the Nar-Anon family and friends group. These groups are open to all who are or have experienced loving someone with an addiction.
- Schools – This may not be a place one has thought of, but for children and teens who have a loved one with addiction, this could be a place of refuge. Guidance counselors could be a source of encouragement for teens and children as well as a guiding light to the right resources. Society cannot dismiss the need for children and teens to receive treatment. They are still developing emotional sensors and controls. With guidance and support, they will be more apt to talk about what they are feeling and process their situation better.
- Rehabilitation Centers – Once a loved one has begun receiving treatment from a rehabilitation center, family members can receive treatment there as well. Rehab centers know how important it is to treat the whole family as well as the person.
Rehabilitation centers also offer family members the experience of being involved. Participation in the intake process, as well as family and friend support groups, is encouraged. They also offer family counseling programs. These programs can help rebuild broken bridges and create a healthy line of communication for everyone involved.
For the Future
The future of a recovering addict and their families is not all flowers and honey. For the addict, sober living can be intimidating and full of unknowns. Families and friends can still worry about their loved one. Will they start using again? Will they be able to hold down a job? Will they be able to resist temptation? All the what-if questions can have families planning for a disaster before it has even occurred.
Families are the backbone of society and especially their loved ones dealing with addiction. In order to keep the backbone strong, get help. Don’t go on this journey alone. Support groups, rehabilitation centers, and schools can help adults and children maneuver the obstacles and travel the bumpy road of addiction recovery. The old saying is that if you can’t take care of yourself, how are you going to take care of someone else? How true are these words! As a loved one, you need and deserve to get help. If you do, then you are better equipped to help your loved one.