Accepting addiction as a disease is often the initial step to family recovery. Families need to understand that they have not caused their loved one’s addiction and that they can’t control or stop him or her from using drugs or alcohol. Fellowships suggest that when families feel guilty or ashamed about their loved one’s addiction, they should remind themselves: “I didn’t cause, I can’t control, and I can’t cure it”. These simple words contain the wisdom earned over many years by countless family members who have a loved one abusing drugs or alcohol. In understanding the dynamics of the three Cs (cause, control & cure) about addiction, family members and friends will put themselves in a better place to help the impaired individual in the recovery process.
Below are suggestions on how families of individuals struggling with addiction can effectively help their loved ones by following the three Cs rule about addiction.
1. You Did Not Cause the Addiction
It is not your fault your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Despite what you have come to believe, you did not drive your loved one to use alcohol or drugs. Often times the impaired individual may say you have caused their addiction as they resist taking responsibility and instead blame you or someone else for it. Your love or lack of it cannot compel someone to abuse drugs or alcohol more than it causes someone to become diabetic. You as a family member or friend have no power over the disease of addiction – this is the first thing to remember.
2. You Can’t Control the Addiction
Unless the impaired individual wants to give up drugs or alcohol, your attempts at controlling the situation, more often than not, are not successful. Under pressure, he or she may ease off for a while, but likely to relapse later. Only when the impaired individual makes the decision to stop the misery caused by drug use, the recovery process begins.
3. You Can’t Cure the Addiction
As you agree, unless you are a doctor, you cannot cure diseases. In the same way, if your loved one is struggling with the disease of addiction, you need to accept that you cannot make him or her get well. Believing that you can treat your loved one can even worsen the situation. Your loved one needs to come to terms with the fact that he or she bears the responsibility to quit the drug or alcohol use, alone. By taking this decision away from him or her one diminishes the ability of the struggling individual to find the way out of the addiction. As with any illness, the sick person must believe he or she suffers from a disease before looking for help in treating that disease. Unfortunately, friends and family members who do not understand this point, will end up with the heartache and the frustration of unsuccessful attempts in forcing the impaired individual to get well.
Dr. Balta is the Medical Director at FCR for more than 10 years. Dr. Balta is Board Certified in Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, Certified Psychoanalyst. As well, as having Psychiatric Training at The Albert Einstein School of Medicine Psychiatric Residency Program In New York City and Psychoanalytic Training at The William Alanson White Institute in New York City. While working in New York City, gained funding Grants for the treatment of Substance Abuse Disorders from SAMHSA , HRSA and the City of New York.