What is addiction?
There are many different types of addiction: substances, gambling, sex, and food to name a few. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as, “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” According to Mark Gold, chief of addiction medicine at the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida says “Food addiction is described as eating too much despite consequences, even dire consequences to health.” Without the ‘dire or harmful consequences’ added to the definition, behaviors that seem like addiction, may not be an actual addiction, simply bad choices. Most people will find the negative consequences are enough to reshape their behavior.
It can be very frustrating for the loved ones of an addict to stand by and watch. Reasoning and logic seem ineffective yet to the bystander, it all seems so obvious. A DUI would be a clear indication that drinking and driving must not continue. Yet, the alcoholic continues to do so despite a Judge’s harsh warning. The doctor tells the food addict that she must lose and manage her weight, but she continues planning her day around her next binge. The methamphetamine addict continues using despite the threat of jail time held over his head. Family members beg him or her to stop or change, with no results, and frustrations rise. Often, family members find themselves threatening the addict, but one must realize that these threats are meaningless. Addiction is far more powerful. It is critical that family members find a source of meaningful support for themselves before they will be effective in helping their addicted loved one.
Finding help for yourself
So how does a person cope with the addict’s seemingly erratic behavior? There are a few resources for family members. Private therapy can be a great first stop, but groups can be a huge benefit. Connecting to and idenfiying with others who have gong through similar experinces can be very beneficial and reduce the isolation that often accompanies family members of addicts. After all, addiction is not something typically covered in social settings or at a dinner party with friends.
For starters, family member of alcoholics can find support through Al-Anon. A 20 question, self-quiz can help you decide if Al-Anon is right for you, and can be found at http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/is-alanon-for-you If Al-Anon seems helpful, the next meeting will be Wednesday, Jun 8 at 7:00 PM at People Reaching Out, 5299 Hemlock, Sacramento (on the corner of Hemlock and Auburn Blvd).
Narcotics Anonymous is also available in Roseville, at Kaiser Medical Office Building – 3rd Floor, 1600 Eureka Road, Tuesdays, 7:00 PM. http://www.naranoncalifornia.org/norcal/meetings.htm
Families Anonymous is another helpful resource for family members of an addict. Families Anonymous offers an online support group available 24/7 providing group discussion through email messages that are sent to all members of the group. For more information, go to http://www.familiesanonymous.org/
It’s important to remember that addiction in a family can be as challenging for the family members as it is for the addict himself. Identifying with others who have walked in your shoes is a good first step toward self-care during the challenging times that may lie ahead.