May 10, 2012

3 Things Not to do if Your Loved One Suffers From Addiction

I mentioned previously that this blog might change topics now and then. Tonight my son Tony will be guest hosting. Tony is a former drug addict. He has been clean for three years, and now spends his life helping others who were like him.

Substance Abuse and Addiction

Tony Giammatteo, Into Action Recovery Center

Working on the family side of treatment for alcohol and drug addiction there are many things that I see consistently that cause a lot of needless grief and suffering for both the addict and the family. This is understandable. Addiction is a disease that thrives within a functional family dynamic just as easily as it does in a dysfunctional one.

Cutting them off

In a traditional family system, we are taught that more love and attention is what we do to take care of a sick family member. While we do want to keep the mentality that addiction is a disease, and that the person afflicted with it is “sick”, this method of treatment will only prolong the illness. I encounter very few drug addicts that are capable of sustaining their own habit. Some are capable of supporting themselves financially, but most are only able to live and use drugs because a family member, or family system, supports them—financially, emotionally, or otherwise.

Stop it! Cut the person off. Kick them out of the house. Stop paying for their food. And call the police if they come over uninvited.

Guilt—When Your Loved One Suffers From Addiction

This brings me to my second point. Do not feel guilty about doing these things. This is perhaps the one and only time that you can take a stance and have a positive impact on your loved one’s addiction. People like us (the addicts) may not have one more high, one more trip to the hospital, or one more chance at relapsing. Chances are, we are doing things on a daily basis that would kill any normal person or get us sent to prison for years. When you cut this person off, it is being done out of love. You are, once and for all, taking the stance that “we will do anything to support getting you help, but we are not going to help you kill yourself.”

A lot of families have a problem with the idea that they are forcing their loved one into recovery. Not true. You are allowing them to make an informed decision about how the family will be proceeding from here on out. They still have a choice.

• It is their choice to live under a bridge instead of going to treatment.
• It is their choice to continue using drugs over the well being of their family.
• And it is their choice to continue to suffer when help has been offered.
• It is, however, your choice, as a family, to no longer participate in that vicious cycle.

30 Days is not enough

I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. When insurance companies started using managed care guidelines the idea became prevalent that treatment for drugs and alcohol lasted 30 days. In most cases you are talking about undoing years of bad behavior and allowing your loved one to gain a proper foundation in recovery for the rest of their life.

There is no magic pill, shot, or counseling session that is going to do that. It is going to be the a result of months of work, personal growth, establishing a support network, learning how to effectively deal with emotions, and a myriad of other factors.

So here’s a novel idea

—listen to your loved ones’ counselors when they get to treatment. These people are not paid if someone stays longer; they are paid to do a job and give you the advice that they think is best. For some reason, families have an overwhelming desire to decide what treatment is best for their loved one in these times. This is kind of like if you needed heart surgery and I was your doctor, and I put you on the table, cut your chest open, and said “how would you like me to proceed with the operation?”

This is difficult for a family to hear but, to put it bluntly, your best efforts got you here! Why not let someone else try helping for a little while?


Tony Giammatteo
Vice President
Into Action Recovery Centers
16808 El Camino Real
Houston, TX 77058

I’d love to hear comments, or questions. And if anyone you know has a problem, get help!

6 Responses to “3 Things Not to do if Your Loved One Suffers From Addiction”

  1. Wonderful advice, good luck Tony. Thanks for helping others when their family cannot. I’ve been through this with my son and I know how difficult it is.

  2. Thank you for sharing that. I cannot think of one family that has not, in some way been touched by substance abuse and addiction.

  3. I have seen loved ones die from addiction. To enable them to continue, is like handing them a gun, and telling them to shoot themselves! I had to stop enabling one brother, after years of “trying to help” him. It was hard, because I had lost another brother to alcoholism, as well as my mom. I realized, tho I was hurting him, and not helping him. It is hard, but it has to be done. Thanks for your article.

  4. I agree. It is perhaps the hardest thing, to be strong enough to say no.

  5. Cool site. Cheers for showing us.

  6. thanks for stopping by.

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