Understanding Your Reactions to an Addicted Family Member

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Illustration © Eleanor Davis

How you react to your loved one when they are using drugs or alcohol is key to how you guide them towards getting help for their addiction.

Is there an upside for you when your loved one uses?

This question may surprise you, but without meaning to, you may be getting some benefits when they use. Perhaps it’s a sense of feeling needed, or the relief of not having to focus on your own problems.

For example, I once worked with a woman whose husband was just plain nicer to her when he drank beer. She knew the hard liquor and periodic cocaine use were problems, but she enjoyed her husband’s better mood and his added attention when he slowly got stoned on beer.

This isn’t about blaming yourself. You are not the cause of their using! But be aware of how your own feelings could weaken your motivation to take action, or create mixed messages about wanting them to stop using or get treatment.

Watch for reactions that just don’t work

It’s likely more easy for you to identify the downsides of your loved one’s drug or alcohol use. Their use leads to hurt feelings that may cause you to react in a way that pushes them away.

What’s really important in our approach at Allies in Recovery is the softening of the relationship so your loved one will come to you when they’re having a hard time. You want to be seen as a resource in their life, so they think of coming to you for help.

If your tone is judgmental, angry, disapproving or lecturing, this can shut down the conversation and push them away. What we want to do is the opposite – to build a bridge between you and your loved one. When they’re in pain, or want to make a change in their life and realize drugs or alcohol are a problem, they can easily cross back over that bridge and say that to you.

Your loved one is an adult and there’s nothing you can force them to do, but you can treat them in a way that draws them towards you instead of making them want to get away from you. This is different than tough love or Al-Anon, which would have you simply detach from your loved one.

Understanding your own emotional reactions – both positive and negative – will help you respond in the most effective ways that will help heal your family.

A membership at Allies in Recovery brings you into contact with experts in the fields of recovery and treatment for drug and alcohol issues. Our learning platform introduces you to CRAFT and guides you through the best techniques for unblocking the situation. Together we will move your loved one towards recovery. Learn more here.

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By | 2017-11-22T21:55:25+00:00 November 17th, 2014|Communication, Family Addiction Intervention, Self-Care|

About the Author:

Dominique Simon-Levine
Dominique launched Allies in Recovery in 2003. Her work has been featured on HBO and NPR. She is a facilitator and a trained speaker on issues of addiction and the family. She has worked extensively developing and evaluating federally-funded substance abuse programs for organizations and clinics throughout Massachusetts and New York. With an interest in recovery and substance abuse that spans 20 years, she sees a huge need to help families develop the skills that will help a loved one recover fully in a supportive, whole, and lasting way in their families and in their communities. Her mission is to have Allies in Recovery fill that gap.

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