This month in preparing for March’s Relationships Matter seminar, we have been spotlighting addiction and its impact on the family. While statistics can vary, it is likely that if you are not yourself experiencing an addiction, then you are a family member or friend that is impacted by someone who is. As there are many debates about what addiction is, we find this guideline through the Canadian Mental Health Association to be helpful in determining whether or not an addiction is present:
The 4 C’s:
1. Craving—is there frequent or constant desire for the substance?
2. Control—is it difficult to control whether or not the substance is used, even when there is resolve to cut down?
3. Consequences — the substance is still being used, even when there are clear negative consequences to doing so.
4. Compulsion — the substance begins to be the number one priority, and all other aspects of life become ordered around using.
Addictions & Families: Treatment
So what is the best way to treat an addiction if it is present? While the options of treatment are many, we’ve decided to focus in on the family for two reasons a) the addiction impacts not just the person using, but also their family and b) research shows us that the family can play an integral and important role in helping someone treat their addiction, and that it can be very effective.
We’ll be discussing the above two points more in depth more on Thursday, but here is a brief overview of the impact of addiction on the family:
→ Loss of connection, feelings of isolation.
→ Feelings of abandonment, anger, guilt, and shame, in both those with the addiction, and those who do not have an addiction.
→ Children who act as a surrogate parents.
→ Aging parents who are supporting their adult children to inappropriate levels given the developmental phase of their child.
The good news is that while the negative impact can cascade, the reverse is also true. Change in the person using the substance can bring change about in the family, and vice versa. Helpful things to keep in mind as a family member are:
→ Your loved one with an addiction is not an embarrassment or disgrace. Addiction is present in all of us to a degree, and everyone has a struggle.
→ Provide them with love and support, as recovery is a process. Look for your own support so that you are able to be there for your loved one in a healthy way.
→ Don’t make idle threats; think through a decision carefully and thoughtfully before placing limits. At times this must be necessary, but if you voice them, be prepared to carry them out.
→ Don’t use your relationship as leverage, asking them to stop to demonstrate their love for you only creates hurt for you, and more guilt for them. Addiction impacts every level of the person, including the biological, and recovery is not a linear process.
→ Educate yourself about substance use and addiction. To find out more what you can do as a family member to help your loved one, come out this Thursday to Relationships Matter at Saint Paul University in Ottawa. More details are available via www.relationshipsmatter.ca.