By: Alyssa Baker
The United States census reports that almost 1.5 million individuals entered into an addiction recovery center from 1995-2010. What about their families? How many millions were affected? While many addiction treatment facilities combine mental, physical, and social services, they are solely treating the addicted family member, and not the rest of the family. Some facilities even involve the family in the addicted member’s treatment, but the interventions are mostly centered around helping the addicted member to stay sober. Addiction can come in many forms: sex addiction, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, porn addiction, and even addiction to social media. While the individual suffers from the control the addiction has over them, the families suffer from neglect, abuse, and traumatic memories. This article is not about a “magical treatment” for getting your family member to stay sober. Instead, we will discuss what it means to take care of yourself…whether the addicted member gets better or not. In his book, “Beautiful Boy,” David Scheff recalls his journey through his son’s methamphetamine addiction. Throughout the book, Scheff attends therapy sessions and Al-Anon meetings that reiterate the three Cs: you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it.
1. You didn’t cause it. How many parents have asked themselves the question, “Am I to blame for my son’s/daughter’s/mom’s/brother’s addiction?” There are many research studies that indicate the biochemical origins of addiction, and still, families blame themselves. Blame, shame, and guilt block family members’ abilities to experience happiness and joy. These feelings can also lead to emotional and physical illnesses.
2. You can’t control it. We all know that we can’t control other people, but when our family members are concerned, why can’t we control them? We love them! Maybe we try enforcing a stricter curfew, limiting the people they hang out with or giving them the car to drive to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Ultimately, the addicted member will use if they want to use…no matter what you do. Although this knowledge may create a sense of hopelessness for family members, it is also freeing. It’s time to focus on what you can control: yourself.
3. You can’t cure it. Addiction is so complex. Believe it or not, it’s much bigger than a mother’s love. Even a superhero dad, wonder woman mom, or sister with a doctorate degree cannot cure the disease. Research shows that the best treatment for addiction is family education on the disease process and enabling behaviors, individual self-care, social support, and family therapy.
The three Cs all focus on self-responsibility and self-care. If you’ve been drowning in a family member’s addiction, it’s time to come up for a breath of air. Be kind to yourself. When is the last time you have done the following:
1. Laughed with friends?
2. Sang your favorite song in the car (Loud!)?
3. Engaged in intimacy (sex, hugging, engaging conversation, etc.)?
4. Gone out for dinner and a movie?
5. Felt the sun on your face?
6. Walked around the block?
7. Watched a favorite show?
8. Looked at the stars?
9. Read a good book?
10. Snuggled with your pet?
If it has been a while since you’ve cared for yourself in these ways, now is the time. Don’t wait for your loved one to “get better” to do these things. You are worth it! For extra support and learning about the addiction disease process, contact a counselor or family therapist today. Also, for more support regarding the three Cs, try an Al-Anon meeting. Al-Anon meetings are for family members struggling with a loved one’s addiction. Local meetings can be found at www.al-anon.org.