Do you have significant experience counseling family members of addicted persons?

It seems that I am living in a state of perpetual sadness. Much of that is consequences of the pandemic. But lately, it centers around the condition of one of my family members, who is struggling with the effects of a lifetime of substance abuse. I love this person, but I am all messed up about it.
Asked by Person
Answered
11/29/2021

Yes. I have experience counseling family members of addicted persons and persons with addictions. Persons living with a person with an addiction often feel shame and guilt. The family member is not responsible for the addiction and is not the person who will solve the addiction. Drug addiction is a chronic, progressive, and sometimes fatal disease. In my opinion, your response is normal for anyone grieving a loss. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ theory on grief provides an understandable process of the stages a person goes through when grieving a loss. Grief is a process that takes time, and support. I recommended family members of a person with an addiction to seek their own professional support, such as individual therapy and family therapy. The person with addiction should seek their own substance use specific therapy and have a period of remission/abstinence prior to engaging in family therapy. It is not the family member’s responsibility to find the “right” treatment program for their loved one but one of collaboration. If the family member is the enabler, they will make the decisions and the person with addiction, if they fail, will not be accountable for their relapse or lapses. There are resources like NAMI family, local support groups focus on the members and setting boundaries, as well as, understanding what addiction is and help one another through their experiences. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a National Helpline 1(800) 662-4357for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. Addiction is not a choice. There are stages in recovery and understanding the stages helps guide treatment. The addicted family member should seek individual support and their own treatment, just as the family member. Treating both the addiction and any mental health issues at the same time is often effective for co-occurring disorders because of the ways that these conditions interact with each other. If one disorder is left untreated, it can worsen and negatively affect any progress made to treat the other disorder. Additionally, the two conditions may be related to each other in complex ways, so treating them simultaneously offers the person the best opportunity to address these relationships and figure out how best to manage both disorders daily.

(LCSW, LCAS-A, CADC)