What to Do when the Bottom of a Slippery Slope Is in Sight
Very many families have been ripped apart by one member’s addiction, and if less commonly known addictions – gambling, sex, overeating, risky behavior – are counted along with alcohol and drug abuse, the number is even higher. An addict’s loved ones will often turn a blind eye and make excuses for them right up to the point where the problem no longer can be ignored, at which point they’re forced to ask themselves the question: “What now?”
It’s important to realize that addiction is not necessarily a moral failure. Of course, choices were available at one or more forks in the road, but we could equally well say the same thing about failures in business and relationships, or unplanned pregnancies and car accidents. Some people are simply more prone than others to seek out a vividness of experience that everyday life just doesn’t provide, or a numbing of feelings they’re not capable of dealing with otherwise.
Once this is done a number of times, the “high” they seek becomes dulled with familiarity, that which produces it is pursued more intently. The end result is addiction. If a loved one finds himself in this position, it’s time to decide between enlisting the aid of professional rehabilitation services or trying to shoulder the responsibility yourself.
Doing It Yourself
Residential care is a good option in many cases. Addiction is often only one half of a “dual diagnosis” type problem, where a mental health issue such as depression or schizophrenia leads to or reinforces the addiction. In such a case, professional observation and even medication may be required on a full-time basis. It might be that situational factors at home are contributing to an addict’s self-destructive behavior and that a change of scenery and pace will contribute to their recovery. Perhaps the strength of the impulse to obtain their next high is too strong to control otherwise, or that they are at risk of harming themselves.
This sounds like a fine idea until one thing is considered: a typical course of treatment at an inpatient rehab facility can easily cost $20,000 or more. Results are certainly not guaranteed, nor is support from your medical insurer. In other cases and for various reasons, it may simply not be possible for a family member to essentially withdraw from society for up to three months. This would mean that recovery at home is the only option.
Sources of Support
Addiction is more and more becoming viewed as a medical condition rather than a criminal problem or behavioral aberration. This means that however strong and well-intentioned a caregiver is, they will require the help and advice of a professional specializing in recovery. Self-help books and common sense will not be all you need, although learning as much as you can about addiction and recovery from credible sources is a good idea.
Most rehab clinics offer outpatient consultations on a per-visit basis, although these are still quite expensive. Therapists experienced in helping addicts are a more economical option, mainly when the addiction is less severe. In more recent years, licensed counselors have also begun offering their services telephonically and online, which offers two major advantages.
In some cases, the financial consequences of addiction will have left a household in poor shape, some with foot large medical bills too. Online therapy, on the other hand, is much cheaper. In the second place, help is available at any time of the day or night, meaning that it’s far easier to avoid a relapse at a moment when the patient’s spirits are low.
In addition to the above options, support groups – both for recovering addicts and their caregivers – are a resource that should never be overlooked. These will put you in touch with people who’ve already traveled the road to wellness and share their stories (good and bad) as well as give valuable tips based on practical experience.
The Role of a Family Caregiver
Perhaps not surprisingly, many addicts who’ve successfully kicked their habits describe their family’s contribution to their recovery as merely “being there.” As they are forced to confront their demons (and possibly the damage they’ve caused to others), feelings of shame and guilt can become overpowering. Letting them known that they are not alone and they are still cherished, is by itself an important source of support. This becomes even more important when they “fall off the wagon”, which is quite common during recovery.
While some addicts will be willing to discuss their disease and journey with their loved ones, this shouldn’t be assumed. Forcing someone to open up – or worse, giving them advice without being asked – will hinder rather than harm their progress.
According to many counselors specializing in addiction problems, avoiding unnecessary tension during recovery is one of the key factors contributing to a successful outcome, specifically when stress is one of the addiction’s triggers. While it’s usually impossible to completely isolate a person from the world, it’s essential to do what you can to shield them from unnecessary annoyances and certainly avoid picking fights with them.
Finally, it’s important to realize that a person isn’t an addict one day and healthy the next. Recovery is a continuing process, and even once the compulsion has been defeated, the temptation will remain.
Many addicts successfully complete a course of rehabilitation at home or in a facility only to fall back into their old patterns six months to a year afterward. Providing encouragement during this time and keeping a careful lookout for any signs indicating a relapse are some of the most important things a family caregiver can do.