Flipping the Perspective: How we View Addiction in the Home

A wise physician said, “The best medicine for humans is love.” Someone asked, “If it doesn’t work?” He smiled and answered, “Increase the dose.” – Unknown

One member of a household lost in active addiction can turn the entire household upside down. Whether it’s the head of household or one of the children is not relevant. Fear, confusion, and resentment are bound to follow where active addiction or alcoholism go. It’s a package deal. The primary issue is the life and well-being of the sick loved one. That is paramount.

Following that fact, many variables are connected to helping the loved one recover. One of the most common barriers is the stigma in the home. Who wants the neighbors to know that dad’s drinking is out of control? What parent wants others to know that their child is out running loose in the night in such a fashion that could wind them up in prison; or worse, dead? Nobody does. It’s a matter of how we help them, and how we can help ourselves.

Understanding is the First Step to Changing the Conversation

One prominent therapist was quoted saying the following in a Psychology Today article, “Parents need to stop being quick to judge or jump to conclusions with their teenagers,” says Dr. Breur. “Parents should want their teenager to be able to feel comfortable about needing and wanting help.” She explains that at times, parents may think that an intelligent child is synonymous with a mature child, capable of making wise judgments about drugs and alcohol.”

She brings up a solid point: intelligence and maturity are different things. So many suffering from the disease of alcoholism or addiction exhibit brilliance in many ways but are unable to navigate the necessary skills for healthy relationships. What this article brings up, is concerning adolescents struggling with substance abuse applies universally to all ages.

Parental coach Rachael Robiner, in the same article explains the key, “is bringing to the forefront an important issue often lacking in society when it comes to dealing with substance abuse: an in-depth understanding of addiction to include the need to replace the stigma often surrounding it with more empathy.

She explains that it’s essential for parents to “have more empathy with our children,” and to not see certain behaviors like lying as something personal. “It’s not the child doing the lying,” she says, but rather the result of how “addiction affects the brain making them think they have to lie.”

Stepping Stones to Changing Your Perspective

Be understanding: They aren’t doing anything “to you,” you are caught in the crossfire of their addiction. No matter what they say or how hurtful they can be, they are unable to make better choices. It will feel personal, but is not.

Educate yourself: Find out about addiction to better allow for the understanding mentioned above.

Communicate: Create an atmosphere conducive to their return to health. This will include empathy and compassion.

Seek professional help: Whether it’s an intervention, going to treatment, or family counseling, you don’t have to it alone.

Changing the Approach can Change the Outcome

All these steps open the door to change and leave room for healing. Holding our emotions in can be destructive to the whole household. It ends with those who feel judged getting defensive. It shuts them down, and no new information can be received. When we put down our weapons, our hands are free to be outstretched for helping others.

Changing the way we approach and discuss addiction in our homes is paramount to achieving a solution. Hurt people, hurt people. Opening our minds and educating ourselves to understand what is going on inside our sick loved ones. Addiction hijacks the brain.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself first.  Often people surrounding the addict are usually just as affected, if not more. The ripple effect that addiction has on a family is frightening. Taking care of yourself regardless of a loved one’s relapse, or if they have never given recovery a chance, is of utmost importance. If you believe your loved one could benefit from an intervention, read more here.