Thursday, September 29, 2016

Addiction is a Family Disease

Addiction isn’t just about the voluminous issues experienced by the addict. Like ripples in a pond, addiction affects everything—and everyone—around the addict. Nothing remains untouched as the disease, like a virulent plague, destroys relationships, friendships, employment, childhood, parenthood and marriages. Don’t believe me? Take a few minutes to read this staggering piece from CNN.

According to the article (source figures provided by the CDC from number of deaths from drug poisoning vs. other causes, 1999-2014) “Drugs now kill more people than cars, guns. Drugs are the leading cause of accidental death in this country. Fatal overdoses surpassed shooting deaths and fatal traffic accidents years ago. For perspective on how fast drug deaths have risen, Anderson said, consider the sharp rise in heart disease in the early half of the 20th century. It took about 50 years for the rate of heart disease to double. It took drug deaths a fraction of that time.

Scared yet? You should be, because if addiction hasn't touched your life yet, it soon will. 

This blog post, and the series to follow, is dedicated to you—the person who loves an addict, whether a child, spouse, parent or even close friend—and hopefully the posts will provide helpful advice on how to deal with loving an addict and not enabling them.

First and foremost, the hardest thing to do, at least in my case, was admit publicly my private struggles and sorrows surrounding the turmoil and drama created by addiction. When writing Night Court and the Rememdium Series, those closest to me knew exactly where I drew inspiration for the titles: I love an addict. Out of all the family members, I also hold the title of Queen of the Enablers.

For eight years, I tried to handle things on my own, naively assuming that providing my addict with love and support would somehow “pull him out of it.”

Wrong. Dead, wrong.

Things took a serious nosedive during the summer, forcing me to confront the painful truth: my addict needed help—the kind I’m unable to provide. My love wasn’t enough to free him from the stronghold of addiction. Fortunately, God placed a special group of people in our path and through much prayer, my addict entered rehab.

I fell apart, riddled with guilt, shame and regret. Nights were spent staring at the ceiling, searching memories, trying to figure out at exactly what point I failed him. Worry morphed to fear and fear segued into a few bouts with hysteria.

The same group of wonderful souls who played an integral role in getting my loved one into rehab started a support group for family members of addicts, too. They invited me to attend the meetings, which I was reluctant to at first. I was stubborn, embarrassed and ashamed I couldn’t handle personal family issues on my own.

I’m so glad I no longer feel that way.

With their permission, I plan on sharing lessons from each week’s meetings. Some people aren’t ready for a group setting; some people aren’t able to drive; some people don’t even know there’s a way to escape the merry-go-round of enabling their addict.

My hope is now they will.

Many thanks to Families in Addiction for all they’ve done for my family, and may they continue to be a blessing to others trapped in the intense, dark world of loving an addict. 

Below is the first lesson from FAMILIES IN ADDICTION ~ A CHRISTIAN SUPPORT GROUP in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Please check back regularly as more will follow during the next several weeks.

Addiction Is a Family Disease

Those special relationships in which a person is really close to an addict are affected the most. We who care the most are caught up in the addict's behavior and we react. Seeing our addict out of hand, we try to control it. We are ashamed and feel isolated. We try to handle all the chaos in private. It isn't long before we feel like we are to blame and we take on the hurts, the fears, and the guilt of an addict. We too, can become ill. All our thinking becomes directed at what the addict is doing or not doing and how to get the addict to stop.

This is the beginning of our obsession.

Watching them kill themselves is painful. They don't worry about the bills, the job, the children, or their health so the people around them usually begin to worry.  We try to fix everything.

This is the root of our anxiety.

Sooner or later the addict's behavior makes us angry. As we realize the addict is telling lies, using us, and not taking care of responsibilities, we begin to feel that the addict doesn't love us. If they did they wouldn't drink or do drugs and they would take care of their own responsibilities.   We accept promises and we trust that each time they quit, it will be their last time.

This is the fuel of our anger.

But the most severe damage to those of us that love them is that we begin to believe it’s somehow our fault. If we would have just done things differently they wouldn’t be an addict. If we would have raised them better, if we had been there more for them, had raised them in Church, had been a better mother, father, sister, brother, friend. We didn't cause it. These are   the voices of guilt.

THE 4 Cs

You didn't cause it.
You can't control it.
You can't cure it.
But you can contribute to it.

When a person has a loved one in addiction they will go through the following stages:

Stage 1: Denial ~ In this stage you see signs that something is wrong but think to yourself “my child would never _________. It’s just a phase, nothing to worry about. You tell yourself that if you ignore it, it will go away on its own.

Stage 2: Anger ~ It’s hard to accept that our addict would do this to themselves and it’s easier to blame ourselves or take it out on someone else - quite often our spouse. We get angry at life circumstances, ourselves and our addict. If anger is left unchecked it can turn into resentment which turns into bitterness.

Stage 3: Bargaining or fixing  ~ Once we are done being angry about the situation, we want to fix it. We take the problem on our self and do everything in our power to get the addict back to normal. We try to force them in to rehab, to go to meetings, to counseling, etc.
Everything we try doesn't just makes us more frustrated.

Stage 4: Depression ~ When we finally accept the reality that our loved one is an addict and we realize that there is nothing we can do to fix it, we feel defeated. Worry, fear and helplessness set  in.

Stage 5: Acceptance and Surrender ~ You realize that there is nothing you can do to change the circumstances. You learn to reach out to others for support. You don't stop caring, you stop obsessing. At this stage the only place to really turn to is God.

There are many challenges in each stage and they can be hurtful and very hard. It is our belief that when you reach stage "5" acceptance you can finally take the steps to regaining your life back, which ultimately helps lead your loved one to the one and only that can heal them.

I've been through the first four stages multiple times. On a few occasions, I've experienced a mixture of two or more together. Through much prayer and support, I hope to experience acceptance and surrender. Just like our addicts, we must concentrate on one day at a time, rejoicing in the forward steps of this long, long journey toward healing.

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