For families

You need help

It's often said that the first step towards getting well and starting to move away from addiction is to admit that you need help and to ask for it.  In our experience that applies as much to the family of the addict as it does to the addict themself.  That's why we say, because you are probably facing all your problems with little knowledge and little experience of the best way forward - you need help! 

If you ask for help, you'll find people who understand how damaging it is to have a practising addict in the family, whether the addiction is to drugs, alcohol, gambling, or other destructive behaviours.  People who understand that love and loyalty tugs you in one direction, while annoyance, incomprehension, and many other negative feelings in another.  People who understand the isolation that addiction encourages.  People who can suggest ways of reducing the impact of the problems you face, who've been there ahead of you..

So if there's one message we want you to take away from this section, it is – use all the help you can find.

Helping the addict

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been trying for some time, maybe years, to help the family member who has the problem.  And you’ve probably realised it is very difficult.  We have no easy solutions, but the following suggestions may help:

  • Family members are often advised not to “enable” the addict – making the phone call to work to say they cannot work today, driving down the line to pick them up when they’ve missed the train, even going out to buy their drink.  Letting the sufferer face the full consequences of their actions can sometimes bring about a realisation that they need to change.  It can certainly allow you to take a step back from the chaos, to spend more time on your own life rather than living closely in the life of the addict.
  • Intervention – some people say that the addict has to find his or her own time to stop, and that no actions by the family have any effect.  But there is evidence that an “intervention” can sometimes be effective.  This involves a number of family members sitting down with the addict and saying, with as little emotion as possible, “We still love you, but we hate what you’re doing to yourself and to us.  We want to tell you how you make us feel, and we want you to stop”.  There are professional interventionists, and also there is advice on the internet on how to plan an intervention within the family.
  • Find out about treatment – even if the addict is not ready to stop, you can still find out about treatment, find out how much it may cost, and even talk to a rehab or two about how much treatment might cost, and it how they go about it.  When your family member decides they’ve had enough, it is helpful to be in a position to move quickly!
  • Finally, remember that addiction is an illness – the addict is not a bad person who needs to get good, but a sick person who needs to get well.

Helping yourselves

It is often said that family members are the least likely people to “get through” to addicts/alcoholics and convince them of the severity of their problem.  So you may want to leave that to others and to fate, and to concentrate not on helping the sufferer, but on the areas where you can make a difference – looking after yourself and the family.
There are of course many more people affected by the addiction of family members than there are addicts – it is sometimes estimated that each addict has a profound negative effect on five people around them.  So it’s no surprise that there are organisations to help the families.

There are a number of such organisations, and we list just a few below.  We strongly suggest that you contact the organisation that addresses your problems, that you talk to people there, and that you keep an open mind regarding the help that they offer.  You and your family probably need help more than you realise!