Have you ever seen the TV program “Intervention”? It airs Monday nights on A&E, the time depending on where you live. It focuses on a person with an addiction(s). The addiction could be alcohol, drugs (including prescription drugs), food (overeating, bulimia, anorexia), shopping, and gambling. What is important and appealing about this program is that although it is about a personal addiction, it is more about how it affects family and friends and their decision to intervene to get their loved one into rehab. Not all stories have a happy ending and the pain and anguish of a child, parent, spouse or friend of the addicted person is usually heart-wrenching. It is real.
My purpose in mentioning this program is because recently I have heard from many readers who have an alcoholic family member and have no idea what to do. Alcohol, like any addiction, is a family disease. It tears families apart. Enabling the addict becomes a disguise for love and care. Family members squabble over the right thing to do, putting their own relationships at risk while the addict usually continues on his/her merry but destructive path.
This article is for those of you who are not addicts but have a loved one who is addicted and in denial. I am not one of you. I am the addicted person and so what I say to you here comes from my heart and my experience. I am not a relationship expert nor am I an alcohol/drug counselor. I am an alcoholic in recovery and I want to help you understand addiction as best I can so that you can help yourself.
The first thing you must do is go to Al-Anon. You will find support and understanding because the folks there are suffering as you are. Don’t think you are different or your addicted loved one is different. Listen for the similarities when people share. You will be amazed how their story is your story if you are open-minded. Al-Anon will help you stop being a victim and take control of your life even if it does not include the addict. If you have an addict that is in denial, understand that he (at this time I will use “he” but I am including women as well) will not get help until he finds something more important to him than drinking (or whatever the addiction). Unfortunately, that “something” may not happen until catastrophe strikes. You must continue to seek the support of those who understand what you are going through. Family and friends may mean well but you must be careful about their advice and comments.
Don’t believe the addict if he says that he is cutting down on alcohol/drugs or that he can do this himself. Trust me. He cannot. Then he will lie because that’s what addicts do. No one lies better than an addict and we manipulate quite well also. Addicts act like victims and before you know it, you are apologizing to the addict and you don’t even know why. The addict makes a lot of promises but cannot keep them. Deep down he truly wants to fulfill the promises but he can’t. Every day he will vow that it will be different but it will, in fact, end up as every other day and sometimes worse. This is not about willpower. The addict has no choice. He is an addict. Do not consider him weak. He is not. He is only very sick.
The addict will tell you he cares but his behavior says he doesn’t. I know how confusing this is but the truth is, no matter how much he loves you, his family, his friends, he cares about his addiction more. This is usually not verbal. It is in his actions. If you are not an addict, you cannot understand. This is exactly why a program like Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 Step Recovery programs rely on sponsorship. Only an addict can understand another addict. I can watch “Intervention” and feel exactly how these addicts feel even if their situation is totally different than mine.
Don’t enable the addict. No matter what, don’t give him any leeway at all to stay in his addiction. No money. No transportation. No special treatment. Don’t make excuses for him. Do not accept the addiction as a phase someone is going through. I believe this is especially true if the addict is young or if the addict is going through a period of stress. Granted, the addict is a very sick person but tough love is sometimes the best medicine. I have to share this little story. My husband and I were watching “Intervention” and the members of the family were telling the addict what they would no longer do if the addict did not go into rehab. My husband said, “How insensitive of them!” I responded with “How brave they are!” I thought this sounded backwards. I am the addict and I am applauding the family for being tough. He is criticizing the family for the same reason, but this is the enabler in him.
There is so much more that I could tell you but this is an article, not a short story. An addiction of any kind is as bad a disease as any a human can encounter. There is one last thing I want to leave you with. There is no cure for addiction. Recovery is a life-long process. There is no graduation from the Twelve Steps. Recovery is not only about the addiction; it is how to live life on life’s terms. It requires patience from everyone.
I hope that something I have written here might have struck a chord and that one of you out there will get the help you need first. Pick up the phone and call your local Al-Anon and get a meeting schedule and then go. I would hope and pray your addicted one gets into recovery but if he does not, you must find your way and move on. We can only change ourselves and we can only do it one day at a time.
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.