by Mike Gillis, LCSW-C
One of the things I noticed in my years in the field of addiction was the need for families to have support when loved ones are struggling with drug or alcohol abuse and addiction. Sure, most addiction treatment programs have a family component, but what about the months or years leading up to when a decision is made for them to get help?
I want to advocate, for the families, that getting help for yourself early is often the best thing that you can do for your loved one. Countless studies have shown the importance of love, healthy support and strong boundaries in the recovery of addictions.
This blog series is for any family member who wants to be prepared for the possibility of their child or young adult using drugs. It’s also for those parents who are worried it might be currently happening and don’t know what to do next. Over the next few weeks we will discuss the risk factors and protective factors for drug abuse, signs that a family member may be abusing drugs, how it effects families as well as how to talk about drug abuse.
Families often grapple with the realization that their loved one is using and abusing drugs and look for ways to explain away signs. Let’s face it, everyone knows how bad addiction can be and sometimes it feels safer to keep reality at arms length.
“My Jonny is a good kid, he would never do that”
“It’s normal for kids to experiment”
“He is just going through a phase”
“He knows he can come to me if something’s really wrong”.
I have heard so many times after the fact that families had a good idea something was wrong but didn’t want to admit it to themselves. Despite more and more evidence everyday of how addiction can affect anyone, there is still a stigma around addiction in or society today. This stigma leads to covering up and avoiding some of the most obvious signs of addiction in the home and has prevented many families from getting help early, when it matters most.
Who’s really hurting here? If you come away with anything from this blog series, I hope that you hear the message that as a family member, whether you suspect drug abuse or the potential for it, getting your own help early can make a huge difference in outcomes for your loved ones. So often the focus is on getting help for the person using. We think that being “OK” and “strong” are the best ways to be there for someone. I see that you, the family member, are hurting too!
Join me through this journey these next few weeks and please don’t hesitate to leave comments on your experiences. When families struggle with addiction and don’t talk about it, it can be a very lonely and isolating experience for yourself and others who may be going through it also.
Up Next: Risk and Protective Factors for Drug/Alcohol Use in Minors and Young Adults