Addiction, the Hard Truth for Families

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Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

It seems that the more I learn about addiction the more I do not really understand and learn again. The concept of enabling is one of those terms that is no really used clearly or understood clearly. Perhaps that is because the term means different things to different people in different situations. Most commonly, the term enabling means that the family from which an addict or alcoholic comes is sick. In this case sickness means that the family is either abusive or addictive and engages in all types of lies and denial to cover up the addiction and abusiveness of all of its members.

However, the term enabling can also mean that a family is neither abusive nor addicted (except for the one member) but makes it easy for the addicted member to continue using drugs or alcohol. The way this happens is that parents and siblings of the addicted member find it difficult or impossible to "lay down the law." Laying down the law has to do with setting up and enforcing certain rules, regulations and limitations that are inviolate. Among these regulations are the following:


1. Enter detox and rehab treatment or you can no longer live in our house.

2. As long as you use drugs or alcohol we will not give you any money.

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3. If you are arrested for DUI or disturbing the peace we will not bail you out of jail.

4. If you bring any drugs into our house you will not be allowed to live there any longer.

5. In summation and the bottom line is that: "Until you are free of drugs you are not welcome her any longer. Free of drugs means that you are in treatment and have been free of use for at least 6 months.

The difficulty with putting an end to enabling is that family members feel too guilt and afraid to set limits. Using a form of denial, the family convinces itself that their loved one could lose their life if put out of the house. What they fail to see and comprehend is that continued use of drugs can end in their death and even the deaths of other people if there is a traffic accident.

Parents tend to think about their adult child or adolescent who is now addicted in terms of what they were like when they were young. In viewing the addict in this way they are unable to see that they are being used and manipulated into supporting their continued drug abuse. Remembering the charming and vulnerable baby and small child they once were the family finds it difficult to accept the reality of the present day drug abuse and the fact that this addict is someone who is guided by one relationship and that relationship is to the drug or alcohol.

There is help available for families and their addicted kin if they are willing to face up to hard truths.

Facing the hard truth about addiction and setting limits with the abuser does not guarantee that the use of drugs will cease. In the end it is the drug and alcohol user who must make their own decision to stop using by seeking help for themselves. The only thing that family can do is to clearly state and enforce the fact that addiction is not acceptable and will not be allowed by family members. After that the addict must make their own decisions.

This is difficult for families to face. What are you comments about this tragic topic? You comments are welcome.

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