Often after getting help we wonder why we waited so long before seeking support and learning how to use the resources that are available to us. Often we are aware there is a serious problem with the behavior of a family member. We see them changing in negative ways and may even understand that alcohol/drugs are an issue but if we don't understand what this means we continue to act as if we can or should be able to take care of the situation ourselves. The idea that someone in our family is an addict is so disturbing that we will focus on almost anything else as an issue. This is very understandable. There have been many time when someone in the family class knew there was a serious problem going on with one of their family members and even were clear that alcohol/drugs are the issue but were not willing or able to acknowledge that their family member was suffering from addiction. Many times we know the reality of the situation in our heads but can't or won't accept it in our heart. This split between head and heart is not unusual but may prevent us from moving forward toward learning how to respond to our loved one's drug use in a healthy way and seeking help and resources for ourselves and family.
The first issue is that many of us don't really understand addiction, and the second issue is that the concept of addiction carries with it a heavy load of blame, shame, guilt, failure, and is unfortunately and inaccurately seen as a reflection on the character of the whole family. Our tendency is to try to take care of problems within our family, not to "air out dirty laundry." This behavior tends to isolate the family and individuals in the family and reduces the chances of learning more about the reality of addiction and how to contact and use resources that could be helpful.
It is important to remember the 3 C's. We didn't Cause the addiction, We can't Control the addiction and we can't Cure the addiction. The three C's sound to some people like we are more helpless than we want to be. We would rather force ourselves into the situation rather than believe we are helpless in a family crisis. In fact we are not helpless and if we are to make the best use of important resources we need to learn the other 3 C's. These are learning what we Can Cause (improvement in our well being, increased knowledge about addiction, treatment and how to respond to the addict) What we Can Control (Our environment, How we respond to addiction, How we allow ourselves to be treated) and what we Can Cure (Our own emotional and physical health).
The resources we use should help us in understanding what we are dealing with when we have an addicted person in our family, help us reduce our feelings of isolation and anxiety, help us in relating to our entire family, help us feel better about ourselves and stay connected to friends and other people we know in the community.
Good resources should help family members learn the following skills:
Skill 1. Understand the nature of the disease of addiction.
Skill 2. Understand the difference between the addicted family member's issues and our issues.
Skill 3. Understand and begin to implement the 3 C's
Skill 4. Understand and begin to implement the new 3 C's based on what you can do.
Skill 5. Learn how to manage anxiety and fear. Learn how they drive unhealthy reactions to the addict.
Skill 6. Learn how to use resources both inside and outside the family.