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When a Family Member is a Drug Addict or Alcoholic

Watching a person struggle with addiction, day in and day out, can be incredibly discouraging. The actions of the addicted person might make you feel angry, sad and helpless, all at the same time. While it’s true that an addiction is a personal disorder, meaning that the person must truly want to achieve sobriety before the addiction can be left behind for good, there are some things you can do in order to reduce the amount of damage an addiction can cause to your life and your happiness.

Stopping the Cycle

Research suggests that some addictions can be passed down from a parent to a child. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about half of a person’s risk of addictions to substances can be pinned on the influence of genes. Addictive behaviors can also be passed down through the generations as children grow up to mimic their parents in ways both large and small.

Growing up with a parent who always has a drink at the end of a “hard day,” for example, could cause you to believe that alcohol is an appropriate treatment for life’s disappointments, and this could lead you to develop your own drinking problem later in life. If you grew up in an addicted household, it’s best for you to avoid the trap altogether and maintain your sobriety at all times. As a sober family member, you’ll also be in a good position to help someone else you care about to overcome an addiction issue.

Avoiding Codependency

There’s a very fine line between helping someone who has an addiction and sheltering that person from the consequences of an addiction. In general, these are the sorts of actions that might indicate you’re helping a bit too much, and perhaps hampering a recovery:

  • Calling in sick at work for the person you love
  • Making excuses for the person at parties or family gatherings
  • Taking exclusive care of the household chores
  • Nursing the person through a hangover

Taking Care of You

It’s easy to focus exclusively on the needs of the addicted person, rather than taking time to deal with your own passions, hopes and dreams. You may believe that you shouldn’t think about your own life, until that person’s life gets better. Unfortunately, this isn’t a healthy strategy. In fact, by focusing exclusively on that person’s addiction, you might harm your own health in the process. Support groups, such as Al-Anon, might be a great way for you to learn more about addiction, and what you’ll need to do to cope with the damage an addiction can cause. According to a study in the journal Addiction, about 3 percent of the adult American population has been to an Al-Anon meeting at least once. For many of these people, these meetings are of vital importance. Here, they can learn more about how the addiction may have changed their family, and what they might need to do in order to heal, regardless of whether or not the addicted person ever chooses to get help.

If you’d like to get more information about codependency, or you’d like to learn more about how to find an Al-Anon meeting in your area, please call us today. We’re happy to answer your questions and help in any way we can.