How to find out if you or someone you know is an addict.

 

Addiction is a family disease that affects everyone connected to the addict. So what should family and friends do (and not do) when someone they love is addicted? 

Addiction is a disease of the body, mind and spirit from which people can and do recover. Like any other disease, no one intends to get sick or wishes it upon someone. Addiction recovery is a process of healing from the different layers of pain, disappointment, shame and guilt that come with addiction.

What not to do:

  • Do not think you can control the addict or the addiction.  Understand that the addict and the addiction are beyond your control.  You can only control yourself.
  • Do not enable the addict or alcoholic. There is a difference between helping and enabling someone.  Helping someone is doing something for someone which they are not capable of doing themselves. Enabling someone is doing for someone something they can do and should do for themselves.  Helping looks at the long term benefits and consequences, whereas enabling only looks at the immediate situation or drama.
  • Do not make threats you won’t be able to follow through on. Addicts/alcoholics will continue to push any boundaries to the limits and weaken your resolve. Set limits you can keep and then keep them.
  • Do not shame or scorn the addict/alcoholic. Addiction is a shame based disease and does not need any more shaming to fuel itself. The addict/alcoholic often suffers from chronic shame which includes different levels of low self-worth, low self-esteem, self-hatred, and a distorted self-image.
  • Do not make excuses or cover up for the addict/alcoholic.  Allow them to experience the full consequences of their addiction. Do not deny or minimize the addiction or its severity. Trying to fix their problems, manage their lives or control the addict’s behaviors only prolongs the addict from learning to be accountable and responsible for their actions. They are kept from learning the valuable lessons they need in order to grow and change.
  • Do not allow your emotions to get the best of you. You have ridden a roller coaster of emotions long enough; it is now time for you to get off the ride. If you find yourself getting overly emotional in dealing with the addict/alcoholic, step away until you can be calm.  Addiction creates drama, so be prepared for how you will act before the drama begins.

What to do:

  • Be patient while the addict/alcoholic is in recovery. Recovery is a journey not a destination.  Recovery will happen in several stages and may not happen in a neat line.
  • Do what you can at the moment. There will be situations where you will be hesitant or confused about what to do. Make the best decision you can at the time and move one.  Learn what works and doesn’t work and act accordingly.  Remember to fully accept that you made the best decision at the time with the information you had available.
  • Do focus on yourself not on the addict/alcoholic. Loved ones need to focus their efforts on staying healthy. You can’t help the addict if you are not healthy and cannot help yourself. You and your families’ well-being depends on it.
  • Set boundaries for your long-term health and sanity. Lovingly (and frequently, if necessary) insist that your boundaries be respected and state the consequences for any violation of your boundaries.  Follow through on these consequences. See your follow-through as an act of love that builds trust for yourself and the addict/alcoholic.
  • Do identify and recognize the different areas of life that have been neglected as a result of your preoccupation with the addict/alcoholic and begin to rectify any damage done.
  • Do practice letting go of your need to fix, manage or control the addict/alcohol or situations and circumstances that arise from the addiction. This is sometimes called "release with love”.
  • Do seek help for yourself and other family members. Getting outside help is often critical for complete healing and growth. It can also provide a healthy perspective on your situation and interactions.  Seek out a therapist, counselor, Al-AnonNar-anon, Smart Recovery, Co-Dependents Anonymous, Adult Children of Alcoholics or some other group that focuses on those who are affected by an addict/alcoholic.

Change will take time but will be a beautiful journey of uncovering, discovering, and recovering your lives. You will not only survive, but thrive.

Remember: Progress, not Perfection

New Hope Recovery Center provides individualized treatment for all clients.  We understand that each client is unique.  If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you can reach us at 888-707-4673 (HOPE) or info@new-hope-recovery.com.

Written By: New Hope Recovery Center

 

 

codependent addictionCodependency is a tricky term that is often used in everyday conversation.  Although broader definitions explain the term as a general personality type, one of the original uses of codependency was the idea of a codependent individual having an unhealthy relationship with (often the spouse or child of) an alcoholic or drug addicted person.

A Codependent Personality exhibits several symptoms:

  • A compulsive and unrelenting need to be needed
  • Low self esteem
  • Putting others’ needs first, to the detriment of oneself
  • Deep fear of abandonment and rejection
  • Extreme emotions
  • Strong need for approval or recognition
  • A need to control others
  • Difficulty in adapting to changes and making decisions
  • Passive-aggressive style of communication
  • Poor boundaries and difficulty saying “no”

A person demonstrating a tendency toward codependency will exhibit these symptoms, regardless of whether or not he/she is in a codependent relationship. It is not uncommon to see these patterns emerge across many relationships and settings.  For example, a codependent person may have trouble saying no to a boss, may be preoccupied with needing friends to be happy all of the time, may have trouble telling a parent or partner when she is angry or frustrated and may have extreme difficulties setting limits with his or her child, partner, family or friends.  For a codependent person, these symptoms will be seen across nearly all relationships and over an extended period of time/across a lifespan, unless there is treatment.

A Codependent Relationship can be identified by the following symptoms/patterns:

  • Unhealthy push/pull dynamics,
  • Passive pleasing vs. aggressive demands,
  • A sacrificing of one’s self for a relationship or another’s happiness, and
  • Continuing in a relationship that is not working due to the fact that neither party is willing to give up the security of it

Much of the literature that exists regarding codependency examines the specific dynamic between a codependent and narcissistic personality.  The traits exhibited by these personality types are magnets for each other, creating a balance that, while highly maladaptive and unhealthy, serve to meet the specific emotional needs of each person.   The more the codependent strives to please, caretake and meet the needs of his/her partner, the more the narcissistic individual will take. The narcissistic person needs to be catered to, cared for and put first as much as the codependent needs to care for, please, adore and be approved of.  Once the dynamic is in motion, it becomes highly addictive, and codependency can mirror any other addiction in its compulsive, progressive nature.

As with all addictions, codependency is seen as highly treatable.  The first step is to realize and accept that you are codependent.  Once denial is dealt with and one can come to terms with the maladaptive patterns of codependency, healing can begin and one can learn to seek healthier partners and improve existing strained and unfulfilling relationships with family, friends and loved ones.  12-Step programs such as Codependents Anonymous, Al-anon, Alateen and ACOA (adult children of alcoholics) are extremely helpful for providing the lifelong support and guidance needed to come to terms with and stop acting out the painful patterns and self-denying behaviors associated with codependency.  Codependents tend to be perfectionists and reluctant to ask for help, so if going to meetings is too big a step,  Melody Beattie has written several excellent books on codependency, including Codependent No More.  This can be a good starting point for your healing.

New Hope Recovery Center, Chicago’s premier alcohol and drug addiction facility, offers treatment to those addicted to drugs or alcohol and their families.  Our family programming allows families to see how addiction has impacted the entire family.  We encourage all family members to begin their own journey of healing.

If you or someone you love is affected by addiction, New Hope Recovery Center can help. Contact us at 773-883-3916 or info@new-hope-recovery.com.

Written By: New Hope Recovery Center

Part 1 – Honesty and Open Communication

Trust can be strained or broken by an addiction.  An addict often fails to follow through on well-intended promises, is dishonest, and engages in risky behaviors that can harm the addict and their loved ones.  Secretiveness and hiding are common to those caught up in addiction and will lead an individual to do things uncharacteristic of their true nature.  Rebuilding relationships requires trust.

Once a person enters recovery, they achieve a higher level of awareness and clearer thinking.  They want to regain the things in life that were lost due to the addiction and often most important is the restoration of relationships that were harmed by the addiction.  Central to rebuilding relationships is restoring trust and both the recovering addict, as well as their loved ones, must begin to recognize that regaining trust takes time.  There are several steps the addict and their loved ones can take to begin to restore trust with more love and less turmoil.

For this and the next two articles related to trust (Accountability & Healthy Boundaries and Overcoming Shame/Guilt and Forgiveness), we will discuss the primary steps toward restoring trust.  The first two steps are open communication and honesty:

For the Recovering Person - During early recovery, the addict may experience acute and post-acute withdrawal symptoms that affect their moods, emotions and psychological balance as well as how they interact with others.  Early recovery is also a time of transition: letting go of unhealthy relationships and environments and creating new sober associations and healthy sober leisure activities.  These transitions help the addict heal and reinvent themselves and should be shared.   However, it can seem foreign to share what is going on with the addict after years of secrecy, hiding and dishonesty.

For Loved Ones - Loved ones often remember past experiences and behaviors of the addiction, so changes made by the recovering person and by the loved one can be challenging.  In addition, loved ones lives will change once recovery begins.  They may feel upset, overwhelmed or left behind by the changes, even though the changes are desirable.  They may also not be used to sharing regularly because the addiction kept the addict and the loved one separated.

Open, Frequent Communication:  During addiction, communication is often diminished or eliminated entirely, or any conversations that do occur usually center around the addiction.

It is crucial for the recovering addict and their loved ones to communicate what each person is experiencing as changes occur.  Increased communication that shares both the progress and the challenges each person is facing helps everyone better understand each other and be more supportive. Here are some examples:

  1. If the recovering addict feels ill due to withdrawal. They may begin to isolate, become distant or withdrawn.  Those closest to them may suspect a return to using. If the recovering person instead shares their physical challenges, loved ones will have less cause for alarm.
  2. A recovering person may begin attending 12-step meetings, going to treatment, and juggling their life responsibilities without being in touch regularly with their loved ones.  It is common for the loved ones to imagine the worst, or loved ones may feel left out or abandoned.  Regular communication allows the recovering person and their loved ones to share in the recovery process and heal together.
  3. A loved one may struggle with how to reorganize their life and responsibilities now that the recovering person is taking care of themselves.  Sharing these feelings and concerns allow for the loved one and the recovering person to manage these changes together, which builds mutual trust.

In addition to increasing overall communication, it is vitally important that both the recovering addict and their loved ones discuss the fears and concerns driving any feelings of mistrust.  Discussing fears and concerns take them from unknown and overwhelming to being manageable.  Some fears may be unfounded, some may be based on years of past interactions, and some may realistic - only by expressing and dealing with the fears and concerns openly can they be handled well or dismissed as unnecessary worry.

Honesty: Lack of honesty is a primary reason for distrust.  People are dishonest for many reasons but generally it is to avoid being confronted, to avoid disappointing others, to hide their true behavior, or to avoid hurting others.  Unfortunately, dishonesty eventually leads to the very thing sought to be avoided.  If loved ones make it safe and beneficial for the recovering person to tell the truth (and vice versa), there will be more honesty.  If honesty is met with appreciation, truthfulness will continue while at the same time if the truth is met with arguments, penalties, and no chance for a healing discussion, honesty will not continue.  Communicating with honesty takes courage, so everyone should show appreciation and gentleness in order for the honesty to continue and grow.

Seek Help if You Need It! Honest and open communication is not frequently modeled in many families, but it can be learned.  Many could use help and support to create new healthier relationships - counseling with a licensed professional may help the recovering addict, spouse and/or family to support the changes everyone wants.  Once the process of change has started it takes concerted effort not to slip back into old ways of communicating and interacting.

New Hope Recovery Center is a drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Chicago.  We lovingly treat those addicted as well as their family and friends.  We understand that addiction is truly a family disease and that everyone affected must receive the support and guidance needed to heal from its consequences.  If you or someone you love has had their life negatively impacted by drugs or alcohol, please call us at 773-883-3916 or via email at info@new-hope-recovery.com.