Families of addicts and alcoholics suffer tremendously as a result of their loved one’s addiction. Addiction is often called a family disease because everyone in the family plays a role in, and is affected by, the addiction. Any family can be affected whether you’re a parent, child, spouse, sibling or even a close friend. Families often go through overwhelming emotions related to their loved one’s addiction including guilt, hopelessness, anger, frustration and helplessness. It’s never easy watching someone you love battle an illness but here are four facts, or the five Cs of addiction, intended to help, guide and reassure families who are struggling with their addicted love one.

The five Cs for families of addicts and alcoholics

You didn’t CAUSE your loved one’s addiction

One of the most important facts a family member or close friend has to realise is that they did not cause the addiction. Many family members, especially parents of adult children with addiction, tend to blame themselves for their loved one’s addiction. This is both untrue and unhelpful. Sometimes the addicted person will also blame certain family members for their problematic drinking or drug use. This a tactic called ‘deflection’ which addicts and alcoholics use abdicate taking responsibility for their problems. Family members are easy to blame and often take this accusation on as fact. It is important to remember the addict suffering in active addiction will go to any lengths to protect their using or drinking.

Addiction is a brain disease that is caused by a multitude of factors including genetics, environmental factors, past experiences and mental health. Only about 1 in 10 people who experiment recreationally with drugs end up developing an addiction.

You can’t CONTROL your loved one’s addiction

Now that it is established that you didn’t cause your loved one’s addiction, it may be easier to accept that you cannot control the addiction either. Many family members don’t realise that addiction is a brain disease and therefore believe that is possible for their addicted loved one to summon the willpower needed to quit using or drinking if they really tried. Your addicted loved one is sick not weak or bad and a person’s willpower is crippled in the face of an addiction.

No matter how much you support or love your addicted family member, you are unable to control how much they use or how far down the ladder of addiction they will climb. Your loved one needs professional help from someone who is qualified and experienced in treating this brain disease.

You can’t CURE your loved one’s addiction

Realising you can’t control your loved one’s addiction, and that you didn’t cause it, might give you a measure of relief. Now it’s important to know that, even with professional help, you can’t cure addiction. Addiction is a chronic disease meaning it will be there for the rest of your loved one’s life.

It is critical that you have realistic expectations of your loved one when they return from treatment. They will not be cured. They might still behave in problematic ways because it takes a long time for people to heal and change thoughts and behaviours that have become natural to them over time.

A good treatment centre will give your loved one the tools they need to avoid a relapse and stay in recovery as well as to start to change their behaviour. But your loved one will need to continue to work and actively try to change each and every day to keep their addiction at bay.

You can CONTRIBUTE to their relapse or their recovery

While you didn’t cause their addiction, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it, you CAN contribute to the problem or the solution. Families of addicts are often co-dependent with the addict and struggle to set boundaries. However, it is important to change the way you behave in order to help or hinder your loved one.

Boundaries will show your loved one that you care but that you will no longer be manipulated by them. If you continue to allow yourselves to be manipulated, it sends a message to your loved one that there are no consequences for their bad behaviour making it easier for them to return to active addiction.

Strong boundaries will help your loved one stay on track and invest in their recovery.

Don’t forget to take CARE of yourself

Setting boundaries can be incredibly difficult, especially if you aren’t used to it. A good treatment centre will host family support groups, or will at least connect you to 12-step fellowships that cater for loved ones of addicts. Living with an addict can be extremely difficult and it is important that you take care of yourself, not only your loved one – even if they demand all of your attention.

Support groups will teach you how to put yourself first and set boundaries with your addicted loved one so that you are able to devote time to taking care of yourself. This will have a knock-on effect on the addict who will realise that he or she needs to take responsibility for him or herself instead of always expecting others to do so for them.

Click here to find out more about Changes family support groups as well as other independent support groups for loved ones of addicts.

Now you know why you didn’t cause your loved one’s addiction and you can’t control or cure it, but you can contribute to their recovery or their relapse. Most importantly, now you know that it is critical to take care of yourself and your own needs and that this will end up helping your loved one too.

Are you looking for professional help for your loved one suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol? Contact us today.