When family members call to hear about an intervention, they think they are calling about a loved one addicted to drugs or alcohol. Although true, most don’t realize they are calling just as much about themselves or other family members and their addiction to their loved one through enabling behaviors and codependency. Chemical dependency can’t exist without codependency, and until the enabling and codependency stop, neither will the addiction. Family First Intervention helps families that need to set healthy boundaries for their loved ones. How many times do you pick up the phone and hear that your loved one can’t be helped until he or she wants help or hits bottom? Doesn’t the same apply to you?
How an Addict Affects the Family
When you really look at the situation, many family members are doing things that are keeping bottom from being felt and preventing help from being an option.
The reality is this: the family is addicted to their loved one and has grown accustomed to the way things have become. Families are not prepared when they call us to hear that they need to change because they are part of the problem. In fact, many of them become upset with us. They have been told that it is not their fault and that their loved one has to ask for help or hit rock bottom. What does this translate to? The addiction may not be the family’s fault—they are not addicted to drugs or alcohol—but the family allows it to continue.
It is far easier to get someone addicted to drugs or alcohol to accept help than it is to convince family members (with no professional background or experience and who are emotionally attached) to let go of their own opinions, get on the same page, and do things the right way. The addict and the alcoholic have a job to do, and that job is making sure nobody in the family is in agreement with one another. If everyone were on the same page, then the loved one could not get drunk or high. Addiction is the only fatal medical condition an individual can have that families try to fix themselves or think they know more than professionals do about how to handle it. It takes no credentials to be critics with an opinion who think they know how to treat addiction.
Understanding Codependency & the Role of the Family
Working with families addicted to their loved one through codependency and enabling is far more difficult for an interventionist than working with an addict or alcoholic. Families are looking for a solution that is comfortable for them and not necessarily what is best for their loved one. A family sees an intervention as a final solution in the same way that an addict or alcoholic views going to treatment as a final solution, and it scares them. This means an addict or an alcoholic has a difficult time accepting sobriety because there is the element of the unknown and the fear of change and what living life sober will be like.
Many are more comfortable continuing to get drunk or high because they are comfortable in that routine, even if that makes no sense to those looking in on the situation. Families have the same reaction: they are fearful of what a new routine will be like. Although they don’t like the way things are, they have become comfortable in knowing what to expect. It’s not unlike a person in prison who says he hates it, and perhaps he does, but who has become accustomed to the new normal. He is more comfortable in prison, knowing the routine and what to expect, than facing the uncertainties of the unknown were he to be released.
Remember that while families are waiting for their loved ones to want help and hit bottom, family members have been taught everything they know about addiction by the addict or alcoholic, about how to keep them comfortable so that bottom is never felt and help is never sought. Although somewhat instinctive, enabling is mostly a learned behavior taught to the family by the addict or the alcoholic. People say that someone had to teach them how to get high and the same applies to you in the family about enabling and addiction.
Until the family has had enough, hits their bottom, and actually wants to live in peace, the addict or alcoholic will do nothing to change and get well—there is no reason to. Stop focusing on how to change or fix the addict and start looking at what you have allowed and why things are getting worse rather than better. The next time you speak to someone who tells you the addicted person has to want help and hit bottom before getting well, understand that the same applies to you and that you are addicted to your loved one.