Accepting a loved one’s addiction is not easy. You may feel tempted to downplay the issue or pretend like it’s not there. The stigma of substance abuse doesn’t help. Many families admit that they feel shunned or criticized when people learn of their issue. However, addiction is a worldwide epidemic and no one is exempt. How can you learn to accept a loved one’s addiction and support a healthy recovery?
Common Emotions When Learning of a Loved One’s Addiction
Here are some of the reasons why family members struggle with accepting addiction.
Denial. It’s common for families to be in denial about their loved one’s condition. They may suggest that their son can stop when he wants or that their sister enjoys having a few drinks. Sometimes families will even attribute the alcohol or drug use to stress and pressure that is being placed on the person.
Shame. Because there is a lot of stigma surrounding addiction, many families feel embarrassed when coming forward about their issues. You may feel like you don’t deserve this because you are a good, hard working family. Although addiction does not discriminate, people do, which is why shame is a common emotion.
Guilt. Feelings of guilt naturally piggyback off shame. For example, you may question your parenting skills and put the blame on yourself. Things like working two jobs, getting divorced or giving more attention to another sibling can stir up guilt. It’s important to let go of guilt, otherwise it can interfere with a healthy recovery.
How to Move Closer to Acceptance
Each family is unique. It takes some families a very long time to accept the addiction while others are more receptive. Fortunately, there are ways to move forward in the acceptance process. For example:
Attend Al-Anon meetings. Get support from others in similar positions. You can learn a lot during these meetings while also reminding yourself that you are not alone.
See a counselor. Work with a counselor who has experience in addiction. This will help you approach situations objectively while further understanding the possible reasons for the addiction.
Stage an intervention. Interventions can be successful in getting an addict help. They need to be well-planned, so be sure to enlist help from close family and friends as well as an addiction specialist.
Define your boundaries. Work with a counselor to set boundaries to avoid enabling the addict. Once you define the boundaries, stick to them. Otherwise, your credibility will be diminished.
Get educated. The more educated you are, the more reasonable expectations you will have. You can learn about addiction by reading online articles and library books, participating in support groups and attending 12 Step meetings with your loved one.
When learning of a loved one’s addiction, it’s normal to be in denial. Accepting the addiction will happen over time, especially if you take the healthiest approach possible. By enlisting professional help, setting boundaries and getting educated, you can better accept the issue and support a full recovery.