An addiction does not exist in a vacuum. By the time a family seeks professional intervention help, its members may have been through years of negative experiences with the addict in their lives. This is a very sneaky disease. It has a way of infiltrating the family unit in such a way that by the time anyone actually uses the word “addiction,” it is already well established.
Drug and Alcohol Use as a Coping Mechanism
The addict starts to use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to mask emotional pain. This cycle involves the person becoming a professional victim. They become experts at deflecting responsibility for their actions away from themselves. Part of the counselor’s job is to educate the family about different types of addiction so they will understand this situation is not their fault.
The family did not cause their loved one to become an addict, nor can they pressure, will, or love him or her into getting well. The counselor will explain that the intervention is about much more than simply getting the addict to agree to go for treatment, although that may be the starting point in many cases. This is a disease that needs a lot of support to survive.
Well-meaning family members may think they are helping an addict by providing him or her with food, a place to stay, or money. These gestures are done with the very best of intentions, and are often done to keep the addict from experiencing serious consequences, such as going to jail or dying as a result of his or her disease.
Family Members Need Help Too
Instead of helping the addict, these measures do more harm than good by allowing him or her to continue the addictive behavior. During a Family First intervention, one goal is to get the person to accept treatment. Another goal is to help the family members understand that they also need to acknowledge that they were part of the situation that allowed the addiction to flourish.
In order to effectively treat the addiction, the whole family needs to change the way they interact with the addict. The old behavior patterns need to be abandoned in favor of new, more effective ones that support the addict in his or her sobriety. The first step to achieving this goal is for the family to learn how to stop feeding the addiction.
An addict’s family can present a united front of love and support to someone who needs help with an addiction issue. They can demonstrate that there is nothing they won’t do to help their loved one get better, but that they will no longer support him or her in the disease of addiction.
Long-term, this approach helps the addict, and the family, successfully recover from addiction.