How Families Can Help with Substance Use Disorder

substance use disorder - how families can help and not enableBeing a part of a family means facing the world with the strength and support of loving, caring peers. Life’s ups and downs are easier to handle when there are family members willing to shoulder some of the burdens and celebrate the successes.  All of that love and support can be twisted and shifted, when one member of the family has Substance Use Disorder or the disease of addiction. Those bends and shifts are sometimes defined as enabling behaviors, and they could serve to keep a drug addiction (or Substance Use Disorder) in place.

Peer support groups like Al-Anon can put family members in touch with others who know a great deal about Substance Use Disorder and drug addiction, and the information shared in these meetings can lead to transformation and reformation. In fact, according to a 2012 Al-Anon membership survey, 88 percent of people who came to meetings for the first time reported understanding the seriousness of drug addiction and Substance Use Disorder only after they’ve attended several meetings. In other words, people who go to these meetings may not know very much about the challenges their families are facing, but if they keep going to meetings, they’ll learn.

Some families go to Al-Anon meetings just to listen. They come to understand that other families are also dealing with Substance Use Disorder in their family, and they learn how others are focusing on success. Others go to these meetings to network and meet other families who are going through the same process. They seek out peers who have overcome nasty drug addiction challenges.  They ask for advice on steps that really work. Either method could be helpful. The key is to get started.

After attending Al-Anon meetings, families may have a deep understanding of the habits and behaviors they’d like to shift. The best way to make those adjustments is to discuss the plan with the individual in their family with Substance Use Disorder in an open and honest manner. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids provides these conversation tips:

• Choose a time to talk when the person will be sober.

• Emphasize the fact that the changes come from love, not a desire for revenge or punishment.

• Use open-ended questions about drug addiction to help the person come to understand that substance abuse might be the root of the issues the family is facing.

• Set limits clearly, and be prepared to stick to them.

• Stay positive, and resist the urge to fight or give in to attacks.

This conversation can be brief, but the family should be sure to point out the specific behaviors that they’re planning to change, along with the reasons they’re changing those behaviors.

Perhaps then, families will be better equipped to help other family members who are suffering from Substance Use Disorder.

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Written by Recovery Advocate, Blogger for Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™, Heroin News, and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC)

Edited by William Charles, Owner/Publisher

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