Addiction is a family illness. It affects everyone who comes into contact with the behaviours. Many of us who have lived with it are often unaware of the severity of the problem. Personally, it took me 8 years to realise that the person in my family who was a heavy drinker and liked the pub, was actually an alcoholic.
I know I’m not alone, I regularly attend Alanon http://www.al-anonuk.org.uk – a support group for those affected by alcoholism – and hear stories of those who have enabled and colluded with their addicted loved one.
They do it in order to hide their own humiliation, embarrassment and/or shame at the situation. We feel guilt. What have we done to cause this? What could we have done to make a difference? How are we supposed to handle what’s happening?
The family are the forgotten ones. Fortunately, more recently emphasis has been placed on assisting families. Western Counselling runs a Family Programme to inform, assist and support families and those affected by another’s addictive behaviours. Through advice and education our programme helps the family understand their role in addiction and recovery. Family members need to realise and admit the part they might have played in enabling their addict; such as lying for them, giving them money or making excuses for them.
Families living with addiction need to be supported through the anxieties and issues they face. They also need an understanding of the treatment process their son, daughter/wife/father/husband/sibling is going through. Every family is different, so our programme is designed to meet a family’s individual needs. We help them to acknowledge what’s happening in the home, their own behaviours in response and allow them to work out how that impacts the situation for all concerned.
Support and assistance in life is critical – but what about support in death? For families the problem often becomes worse if the addict/alcoholic dies and I’ll have something to say about that next time.