Boundaries . . . With Love
When a loved one is struggling with addiction it can be hard to find the support and answers that the family is looking for. Because of the ripple effect addiction has on loved ones, it is often called a ‘family disease’. Friends and other family all have suggestions but they may not feel right for you. “Detach with love” – what does that mean? Does that mean we have to cut ourselves off from the person we love and cease communication? “Rock bottom” – how do I know when my loved one has reached rock bottom and what happens if their rock bottom is death? “Tough love” – does that mean we need to treat our loved one harshly with the intent of helping them in the long run? Feelings of guilt and shame may have set in and you may be uncertain where to turn and what to do to help your loved one. Do you find yourselves nagging, pleading or threatening? What has happened to your family dynamic? Is your loved one creating chaos within the family and perhaps playing one member off on the other? Are you up at all hours worrying about their well-being? Do you feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster?
From the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation “Living in the midst of addiction leaves family members feeling traumatized and overwhelmed; they’ve been lied to and betrayed. There are arguments and confrontations, slamming doors and sleepless nights. Often, there’s more serious trouble such as an accident, a lost job or an arrest. Non-addicted family members tend to over-function, or over-compensate, for the addicted family member. Parents, spouses, children and siblings may play different roles (protector, persecutor, blamer, family hero, mascot, lost child) to survive the stress of substance abuse.
It’s not unusual for family members to become polarized in their relational styles when trying to cope with their loved one’s addict behaviors. They may even blame each other for the problem. Their relational style typically fall into the following categories:
- Persecutor – Controlling, angry, distant; believes that punishment will fix problems; may become isolated from the family
- Protector – Gullible, caretaking, enabling behavior; believes that love will fix problems; may become overly enmeshed with the addicted son or daughter
- Blamer – Avoids taking responsibility by scapegoating and projecting blame onto others
As a licensed drug and alcohol counselor I am here to help you navigate the muddy waters of helping a family member by changing the dynamics of your relationships with each other and with your addicted loved one. At the heart of this treatment is learning the tools for positive communication and setting/maintaining appropriate boundaries to support your family. You will not be enabling the addiction but your addicted loved one will still feel your love and support, which will encourage them to reach out when they are ready to make changes. This may or may not involve your addicted loved one leaving the home. You will learn skills that help you in the moment to decide if an action will support your loved one’s addiction or their recovery. You will also learn that self-care will help you feel less depleted physically and emotionally so that the family can begin thriving again regardless of the choices made by your addicted loved one.
Part of Family Addiction Support is education. You will learn skills that help you in the moment to decide if an action will enable your loved one’s addiction or support their recovery. You will also learn when boundaries are not enough and emotional distance from your loved one may be necessary to support the family’s recovery so that you can face ending your relationship with your addicted loved one with greater empathy and compassion and less anger and guilt. You can leave the relationship knowing you have done your best while feeling kindness toward your loved one, recognizing their worth and the past value of the relationship which can leave the door open for a connected future if your loved one decides to get help and make changes.
Finding a way forward from the chaos and pain of addiction for your family starts with getting help for yourselves, regardless of whether your loved one seeks treatment for substance abuse. Contact me today for a free consultation.