News & Press

Helping A Family Member Who Has A Drug Addiction

Helping A Family Member Who Has A Drug Addiction

March 18, 2016

By Robert Lathers, LMSW
CEO, The Right Door for Hope, Recovery and Wellness

Almost all of us have been touched by alcohol or another drug addiction in our immediate or extended family. If it has not affected us directly, it has affected another family member, like an uncle or a niece or a cousin.

For those of us who do have a close family member suffering with alcoholism, or prescription drug abuse or an addiction to heroin or another substance, it can have a devastating impact. This person we love is in serious, and at times death-defying, trouble. And it can feel like there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. But, that does not stop us from trying, and because we love them we are willing to do just about anything. Consequently, we unintentionally become part of their problem.

The good news is that there is an escape route that can lead us to a more hopeful outcome. The bad news is that it is very hard to follow. It can be filled with tears, grief and deep, deep sadness, which we have been carrying around with us for quite a while anyway. This route requires us to accept that we are, at most, only one-half of the equation.

Our family member is the other half. We will need to accept that we have already met them more than halfway. We will need to understand that they need to come to an awareness of the problem, make a commitment to action and then prepare to take a concrete step toward recovery … today. No more promises. No more “I will start to deal with this problem … tomorrow.” This is what needs to happen for them to recover and survive. Until they accept this, nothing will change for the better. It will only get worse.

There is an old recovery phrase, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” Roll that around for a minute. It means that if we don’t change something in our approach, then nothing will change in our results. As family members who have already gone more than halfway, we can take a new approach and change how we deal with our much-loved family member who is consumed by their addiction.

Another well-established recovery phrase is, “You can’t control people, places or things.” Think about that for a minute. What’s left? Of course the answer is “ourselves.” We can decide that we will change the only thing that we ever had any control of in the first place … ourselves.

Fortunately, in our community a group of parents, spouses, people in recovery, recovery coaches and professional therapists – totaling about 80 people – have come together and have been meeting to offer support and solutions to anyone who has a family member suffering with prescription drug or opioid addiction. It has a name: Ionia/Montcalm Families Against Narcotics (I/M FAN). It can be your connection for information, resources and support. You don’t have to become a member to participate. These people are very welcoming. They have been on the hurting side of this issue themselves.