There is a heavy stigma surrounding addicts and alcoholics, labeling them as people who “choose to take the easy way out” by drowning themselves in drugs and alcohol. The truth is, however, that there is nothing easy about addiction. It is a progressive disease that creates an endless amount of trouble and risk for both the user and his or her loved ones.
If you use addictive substances, you might not think that you are a full-blown addict or an alcoholic. You might think that you are in control of your substance use and that you can stop using anytime that you want to (and you just haven’t wanted to yet). Or, you may be fully aware that you can’t stop using but do not know what to do or where to go for help. Regardless, the longer you continue to abuse drugs and/or alcohol, the more likely you are to suffer serious consequences that can change the course of your life forever.
But what should you do when you are ready to reach out to your family and tell them about your addiction? First, you need to figure out the severity of your situation.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM ADDICTED?
Understanding where on the spectrum of addiction you are can help you when admitting to your family you have a problem. You could be a functional alcoholic or addict, maybe you’re dealing with co-occurring disorders or you’re at an unmanageable stage of your addiction and are ready for treatment. However, you might not even think that you are addicted to the substances of your choosing. You may think that using drugs or alcohol regularly is normal, especially if you are surrounded by others who use in the same capacity. You might be okay with the fact that your finances are not where you wish they were because you are supporting your substance use. You might not even think twice if you get a DUI/OUI and continue on your way. It is normal if these things don’t raise any red flags, especially if you are used to excusing your substance abuse away and accepting it into your life. But, there is a fine line between recreational substance use and addiction, and sometimes that line can be very blurred.
So, how are you supposed to know the difference? While every addict and alcoholic experiences the disease of addiction differently, many of the signs and symptoms of this disease are commonly shared among everyone. Some of the textbook symptoms of addiction include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Spending a large portion of your time thinking about, using, or finding ways to obtain drugs and/or alcohol
- Compromising relationships with your friends, family, and loved ones in order to continue using
- Continuing to use drugs/alcohol despite experiences consequences of doing so
- Falling behind at work and/or school because of your substance abuse
- Struggling financially, as the majority of your money goes towards supporting your substance use
- Engaging in deceitful behavior in order to obtain drugs/alcohol and to keep using without interference from others
- Needing to constantly increase the amount you are using in order to feel high
- Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when unable to use at all or in the amount that you are used to
- Making several attempts to stop using but being unable to stop entirely
- Developing health-related problems due to use but continuing to use anyway
- Using other drugs to help counteract the effects of another (e.g. smoking weed after snorting cocaine to help calm down)
- Feeling unable to function with the use of drugs or alcohol
- Socially withdrawing from others in an effort to continue using
Half the battle is coming to the realization that you are addicted to drugs or alcohol. If you are experiencing some or all of these symptoms, chances are you are dealing with the disease of addiction. Your addiction might be mild or severe, but either way, getting help is critical if you want to continue to live. And, you can achieve great success in treatment with the support of your family. Telling them what you are going through may help you garner that support.
HOW DO I TELL MY FAMILY I HAVE AN ADDICTION?
In most cases, families are aware when a loved one has an addiction to drugs or alcohol because of how deeply impactful it is. It can be near impossible to hide an addiction, even if it is mild. Your family likely knows you better than any other people in the world and can tell when you are not yourself. They might not even think you are using drugs or alcohol, but that something else is going on in your life that is changing how you behave. No matter what your family knows, being straightforward with them about your addiction is imperative. Some of the ways that you can tell your family about your addiction include the following:
Just Say It
It might seem crazy to just come out and say “Hey, I have a drug addiction,” but getting it out there and in the open is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your wellbeing. If you find yourself pondering over when and how you will tell your family about your addiction, you are only doing yourself a disservice. There is no comfortable way to tell your family that you have a drug or alcohol addiction, so simply saying something such as, “I am struggling with addiction and I want you to know what I am going through,” can make a world of difference for both you and your family.
Not every drug and alcohol user is able to claim responsibility comfortably when still in his or her active addiction. But, if you are able to do so, then do it. Placing blame on others (especially those in your family) does nothing but aggravate an already difficult conversation. If you are serious about your addiction and are ready to start making changes by involving your family, then you must try to take responsibility where appropriate. You might even realize that your family has known all along, and if they have, they may be frustrated or have resentments towards you. Rather than being dismissive of your family, holding yourself accountable can make an otherwise bad situation functional in the least.
If you enter into treatment, you will spend time learning how to make amends with your loved ones. It is not the first thing that you will focus on in treatment, as reaching that step can take some time. But what you can do when you decide to tell your family about your addiction is to be ready and forthcoming with apologies for things you may have done that you know hurt your family. When you make apologies, you are showing your understanding of your family’s feelings and letting them know that you are ready to make the changes needed to stop the continuous cycle of addiction.
Share Your Plans
It is normal for people to tell their families about their addictions without having any type of plan in place for treatment. If you do not have a plan, be sure to tell your family that you don’t have a plan at the moment but that you would like support/help getting one. If you are going to approach your family with this news, however, it is advised that you have some form of treatment set up. This shows your family that you are serious about getting better and that your determination is present.
There is power in vocalizing your addiction, especially to those who you love most. Not only are you admitting your addiction to yourself, but you are showing your family that you are not blind to what has been going on, but rather the opposite. But what should you do if you are concerned that your family won’t be the source of support you hope they will be?
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT YOUR FAMILY MAY NOT SUPPORT YOU
Every family is different, and while some families might accept news like this with open arms, other families may not. If you are worried that your family will not support you once you tell them about your addiction, there are things that you can do to mitigate that problem. Consider the following:
Talk to a family member you are closest to. This could be a sibling, aunt, uncle, or even one of your parents. Speaking with them first about your addiction can help you build your confidence when it comes time to talk to the rest of the family. The family member of your choosing can also help support you when you do have that conversation with the rest of the family in an effort to get them to also provide their support, too. If that is not possible, knowing that you have one family member to lean on can help soften the blow of rejection from your other family members.
Unburdening this giant weight you have been carrying for so long will make your task of fighting your addiction seem much lighter. Everyone wants to have someone in their corner. Having a member of your family on your side will be a huge help to you. One family member can become an ally to you and help you in talking to other members of your family.
Other family members might choose to be unsupportive because they cannot respect your situation. For a family member who has never used alcohol or drugs, they might not be able to relate to you and could, therefore, judge you harshly. Perhaps, a relative who has used drugs and alcohol but has never become addicted, might not respect that you have become addicted. They might view your addiction as a weakness. These types of people could come around to your side in time when they see you are capable of following through with your recovery. Until then, however, do not take their judgment of you to heart.
IF YOUR FAMILY HAS ADDICTIONS
What if your family is part of your addiction problem? What if your family also has drug and alcohol addictions? You might find you will get very little support from them. Admitting you have an addiction might sound to them like you are accusing them of having a problem before they are willing to recognize it. This can stir up feelings of guilt and resentment toward you. Those family members will not support you because of their own discomfort. This has nothing to do with you. This is a personal matter for them to solve on their own, and it’s in your best interest to distance yourself from them.
Another possible response from addicted family members is they will try to reassure you that you do not have an addiction after all. They will remind you that you’re just having fun and try to poke holes in your argument. They might view you as being a wet blanket on their party.
It’s important to stay strong and follow through with your plan to get clean. Their defensiveness also has nothing to do with you. Everyone needs to face their addiction on their own timeline and under their own terms. Unfortunately, you are not likely to get support from these family members. Your only option is to move forward with your own recovery and be willing to walk away from these family members until they want help from you later.
WHEN FAMILY DISAPPOINTS
If it turns out that no family member will support you, does this give you an excuse to return to your addictive lifestyle? Absolutely not! You know in your heart you have reached your decision to change because you are ready. The fact that you are reading this article is proof you want your life to be better. If your family cannot join you, try reaching out to a friend.
You just don’t want to attempt to lean on a friend who also has an addiction or is a frequent user of drugs and alcohol. You need a friend who has a healthy lifestyle you can emulate. You want someone who has their life in order so they can give you the time and attention you need.
If you don’t have reliable friends or family at this time, that’s okay. You still have to stick to your goal to get healthy. It’s all about you now. You can make new friends that complement your new attitude and lifestyle as you get clean. You can have the hope that your family will come around eventually, but you cannot let your family or friends limit your dream to have a new life.
You will definitely want to seek out emotional counseling to help you cope with the loss of family members and friends you had to abandon along the way. Losing friends and family by your choice or theirs is a loss. You will find it therapeutic to talk to someone about any hurt you experience from those who refused to support you and those you left behind.
THE NEXT BIG STEP – GETTING HELP
Once you have done your best to establish a support system of family or friends, you need to begin the journey of detox. You need to find a recovery center that will help you in a method that fits you the best. At JourneyPure At The River, in beautiful Murfreesboro, TN, we have an experienced and compassionate team to help you detox. We use an enhanced version of the Medical Model of Treatment and experiential therapy for treatment for our clients.
We recognize there could also be an underlying medical, social or emotional reason for addiction. This knowledge allows us to treat your addiction in a personalized and advanced manner for the greatest possibility of success. JourneyPure At The River does not believe in a cookie-cutter method of treatment. We believe in you. We truly care about you and want you to feel loved and supported. We are familiar with the challenges you face, and we want to see you succeed with methods that make sense for you.
We believe in the importance of family and know how critical they can be to your success in getting clean. It’s our goal to involve the whole family in your recovery. Our team will take the time to get to know you and your specific situation, so you can get healthy and stay healthy. We offer counseling for you and your family to assist you and your family through the recovery process. Then JourneyPure at the River will stay with you for 12 months following your recovery so you stay healthy. We know how difficult it can be to move forward after rehab, so we have many options to support your journey.
GET IN TOUCH WITH US TODAY
We are here for you and want to help you change your life! Call us today and one of our staff will personally respond. You know you are ready to be free of your addiction. Allow us to show you how to get there.
Get Help Now
Michelle Rosenker is a content writer for JourneyPure where she gets to exercise her journalistic skills by working with different addiction treatment centers nationwide. She has 10 years of experience in the field of addiction treatment and mental health and has written content for some of the country’s most prominent treatment centers and behavioral hospitals. Through her writing, Michelle is proud to continually raise awareness about the disease of addiction and share hope for the future. She lives next to the ocean in Massachusetts with her husband, two young children, and faithful dog.