Getting Help for the Addicted Family

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Family members cannot control an addict’s behavior, but they can control their own lives and free themselves. They can begin to do this by learning what chemical dependency is, and understanding that family dynamics are seriously affected.

Understanding Chemical Dependency

Chemical dependency—whether alcohol or drugs—is not a character weakness. It is a disease. Addicts are physically and psychologically dependent on a chemical.

The circumstances under which people begin using alcohol or drugs vary widely. No one is to blame. No one “drives” anyone else to addiction. The chemical seems harmless to the addict at the outset. Over time, however, the addict finds that larger and more frequent doses are needed to get the same effect.

The addict becomes isolated as he or she struggles to maintain control. By now, the addict is less reliable as the chemical takes center stage in his or her life. In the advanced stage, the chemical has taken control and he or she must maintain the addiction to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Effects on the Family

Suspicion, blame, fear, disappointment, isolation, embarrassment and resentment are just some of the emotions at work in an addict’s family. These emotions can be the source of much family conflict.

Moving On

As humans, many of us have great adaptability. We adapt and sometimes allow ourselves to live under the worst possible conditions because we can’t recognize that we are capable of changing ourselves and improving our own lives. We don’t have to wait for the addict to make a decision to change. With outside help, such as from Al-Anon and Alateen, family members can detach from the addiction that binds them.