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Honesty, open-mindedness, and a willingness to ask for and receive help – these are the keys for your family member’s recovery to be successful. The addict is the only person that can admit they have an addiction. The disease itself tells them they don’t have it. Why? No one wants to be an addict or an alcoholic. No one says, “One day I am going to become addicted to drugs and alcohol, ruin my life, and destroy the lives of all those I care for and who care for me.”

By Nick Cuneo, Clean Recovery Centers

It is important for the family and the suffering loved one to understand that addiction is a cunning and insidious disease. It is quite possibly the most devastating disease there is. People in active addiction are like tornadoes ripping and roaring through almost everything they touch, often creating the most damage among family members.

A person suffering from addiction has lost the power of choice. For them, using is life. Not using is death. This is what it feels like to your suffering loved one. Because of this life/death feeling that comes over them, at times they will do anything to get the next fix. They will lie, steal, cheat, fight and sell themselves. You may ask, “What kind of person would do these things?” The answer is a person suffering from a grave and chronic brain disease. Not a bad person.

The family can take some solace in the fact that getting their addicted loved one well is not overly complex. However, the family needs to realize that this is not going to be easy. First, there is the physical and mental torture of coming off alcohol and drugs. It is a fact that addicts can die from withdrawal. It is highly recommended that the suffering loved one be placed into medical detoxification to get the majority of the substances out of his or her body.

As hard as physical detoxification can be, this is just the start. As they begin treatment, addicts will finally start to face the wreckage that has largely been the result of their addictive use of drugs/alcohol. The terror of facing this is almost indescribable. Remember, your loved one isn’t a bad person who enjoys destroying his or her life and the lives of his or her parents, children or spouse. The simple fact is that addicts, without help, have little control over what they do when in active addiction. They often cannot remember some or most of what they have done. The horror from this feeling can be so devastating that your addicted loved one may consider simply giving up, even planning or attempting suicide.

Given the large task at hand for your loved one after detoxification, it is imperative that he or she receives effective treatment. What determines effective treatment? There are many things to consider.

  • Is the program/facility properly licensed?
  • Does it have all the amenities necessary and conducive towards recovery?
  • What is their reputation in the community, professional community and online?
  • What is the nature of the program?
  • Is the program in line with what has been determined to be the best course of action for your loved one?
  • What kind of outcomes is the program experiencing?
  • Does the your loved one and/or family have insurance or financial resources for the treatment?
  • Is a non-profit program the only program that is affordable?
  • Should the program be more clinically based, faith based, or a balanced mix of both?

The unfortunate news is that there are plenty of programs out there that do not work. The good news is that there are plenty of programs, both for profit and non-profit, that do work. Typically, but not necessarily, these programs may include the following components:

  • Deep clinical work sometimes referred to as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Belief that there is a power greater than themselves, that they define on their own
  • Belief that they can tap into this power to help them overcome their addiction
  • A realization that their lives are unmanageable
  • An inventory of character defects, resentments held, harms done to others – a desire and plan to remove these defects, resentments and make amends for past harm
  • Meditation and/or prayer
  • Helping and being of service to others with addiction – the idea that to keep what you have, it helps to give it away

There are many paths to recovery. Some programs may contain very different elements than what we have described here. Some addicts get well through very different approaches. It is important that your loved one and the family keep open minds when discussing and selecting recovery programs.

Whatever treatment options are decided upon, it is essential that your suffering loved one have a strong willingness to treat their addiction. Without this willingness and a strong support system, ideally with the family playing a major role, the best treatments will likely not work. Remember, your suffering family member is the only person that can admit they have addiction.