Support groups can save the life of an affected family member by providing hope and allowing them to be heard. There is an incredible relief of stress when these confidential gatherings take place. Support groups can also help save the lives of the addicted individual who is out using because participants in family support groups offer caring help and advice learned from their time facing addiction in their own families. This advice can make the difference between enabling your loved one into the grave, or implementing healthy boundaries with everyone’s best interest in mind.
Sharing (and being heard) helps greatly.
When your family member is addicted to alcohol, opiates, or any drug, you’re likely desperately trying to find a way to help them. Life becomes focused on the addict’s problems and you live with fear. You may even blame yourself for their addiction. The ongoing drama and multiple problems caused by a loved one’s addiction create chaos in the lives of everybody around them.
Addiction is painful for everybody who’s involved with the using individual. By getting support, your choice to take care of yourself and create healthy boundaries in your relationship will be the most helpful action you can take for your sick loved one.
Enabling Addiction: How Your Help Can Actually Harm the Alcoholic/Addict
Many of us have inadvertently provided support for addicted loved ones in ways that are not beneficial. When we take on responsibilities like providing financial support for an addict we are helping that person to continue using without facing the natural consequences of active addiction. Actions which can enable your loved one to continue using include
Providing housing/paying their bills
Lying to cover up for them with family, friends, employers
Bailing them out of jail and paying for an attorney
It is extremely difficult to stand by as your loved one becomes homeless or stays in jail or faces the numerous harsh consequences that come from addiction to alcohol and/or other drugs. But addiction denial is a common symptom in an addict/alcoholic’s thought processes. Most addicts won’t seek help to stop using until they are forced to face the reality of their situation.
Alcohol/drugs have impaired your loved one’s ability to think rationally. In order for somebody who is so impaired to see their situation clearly and seek help, usually life has to scream at them to get their full attention. In recovery lingo this is called ‘hitting bottom.’
What About You? When Dealing with Addiction Has Taken over Your Life
When we love somebody who is addicted to alcohol and/or drugs we lose ourselves in their ongoing crisis. We forget that we are important too. Life is centered on helping the alcoholic or addict, or just dealing with the constant chaos their addiction creates. Our lives are thrown off-balance and we become emotionally sick. Like recovery from addiction itself, recovery for family members starts with admitting that we have a problem and seeking help.
There are many support groups for families and friends of alcoholics and drug addicts. Addiction is a worldwide crisis and there are many, many people who share your difficulties in loving someone with an addiction. Like you, they became lost in the crisis of dealing with their loved one’s addiction. They found support and healing by connecting with other people who have addicted loved ones.
Frequently, when you take your focus off of your sick loved one and put it back where it belongs—on yourself and your own life, the addict will follow your example and seek recovery. However, this should not be your primary motivation for seeking help. Though it may not seem like it after a long, heartbreaking struggle trying to save your loved one who has the disease of addiction, you are a valuable person and your well-being is just as important.
Support Groups for Families and Friends of Addicts and Alcoholics
Like other 12-step groups, FA helps you to focus on your own healing and growth through working the Twelve Steps and connecting with others who are going through the same ordeal. Families Anonymous comes highly recommended by therapists. If you’ve attended Alanon or Alateen and you didn’t connect, you could try attending FA meetings.
There’s no cost for participation. The group’s expenses are paid through small voluntary contributions by members. If you cannot afford to kick in any money you are still welcome to attend.
CODEPENDENTS ANONYMOUS is a Twelve Step support group for people who are trying to regain healthy relationships with themselves and others after being subsumed into the drama of another’s addiction. Many people who join CoDA grew up in families with alcoholics/addicts, or have spent years in close relationships where they’ve felt compelled to control or save an addicted loved one. If you think you may fit into this group, you could evaluate your behavior patterns with the CoDA Checklist of symptoms.
If you’re tired of letting another’s addiction control your life and behavior, you can connect to others who have lived with the tiresome drama of addiction and find help in Codependents Anonymous. CoDA meetings are located nearby in most cities in the U.S. and internationally and are free and available to all.
Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA)
ADULT CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICS is a Twelve Step organization where adults find recovery and healing after being raised with abuse and neglect. Although the name specifies “children of alcoholics”, this group welcomes all people raised in dysfunctional families who exhibit symptoms of past abuse and neglect.
You don’t have to allow the past and another’s sickness to define your life, your feelings and behavior. Through working the Twelve Steps and connecting with others who are healing from childhood abuse, you can grow, leave your past behind and become the person you are meant to be.
ACA “embraces the difficult task of trauma work.” Those people who grew up in dysfunctional families, where one or both parents were too sick to provide the nurturing and protection necessary for a child to feel safe, loved, and valuable as a human being, are usually burdened with feelings of shame, worthlessness and abandonment.
Childhood trauma doesn’t just go away with time and distance. Through working the Twelve Steps and connecting with others who are overcoming their past trauma, you can heal and find freedom from the prison of childhood abuse.
ADA meetings are located all over the U.S. and internationally. Like other Twelve Step groups, support is voluntary, usually through small individual contributions at meetings and you do not have to pay anything to attend.
AL-ANONis a Twelve Step group for people with a loved one who is alcoholic. This group was founded by the wives of the two men who founded Alcoholics Anonymous, Louis Wilson and Anne Smith. Having an alcoholic loved one is an overwhelming problem which causes a great deal of emotional pain and dysfunction. There’s no other way to describe the behavior of an active alcoholic than
And yet you sense that your loved one is ill, and not able to be their self. You never give up hope for their recovery; the painful ordeal of loving an alcoholic can take over your entire life so that you become emotionally sick too.
Alanon members learn to lead happy fulfilling lives whether or not their loved one recovers from alcoholism. In Alanon we begin the path of healing by working the first step of recovery—admitting that we are powerless over alcohol and our lives have become unmanageable. As we work the remaining steps we let go of trying to control the alcoholic and focus on our own behavior and healing.
In Alanon we learn to
Set healthy boundaries with others
Stop trying to control or manipulate another’s behavior
Stop enabling addiction
Let go of saving another person
Take responsibility for our own life and behavior
Prioritize our own well-being
Maintain serenity and joyful living no matter how other people behave
Like other Twelve Step groups, Alanon is funded by the small voluntary contributions of members. If you do not have any money you’re welcome to attend. Alanon has groups all over the world. No matter where you live you can find a local meeting or attend an online group.
AL-ATEEN is for young people whose lives have been affected by another’s problem drinking. Usually it’s a parent, but it could be a sibling, friend, or anybody whose drinking has harmed you. Especially if the alcoholic is your parent, you may be deeply hurt by their behavior. You can heal and find emotional balance through working the Twelve Steps and connecting to others who have the same problem and understand how another’s drinking can make you feel.
To find out more about how Alateen can help, check out Teen Corner. Like Alanon, Alateen has groups all over the U.S. and internationally. There are also online meetings. Click here to find a group near you.
NAR-ANONis a Twelve Step organization for people who have been hurt by the drug abuse of a family member or friend. When somebody you love is addicted, their drug abuse affects your life in a multitude of ways. While trying desperately to help your loved one stop using, you can become lost in their problem so that you forget how important your own happiness and emotional stability are.
The sad truth is that nobody can make an addict want to stop using drugs. Those people who are close to the addict can get sucked into the whirling vortex of addiction and lose themselves. Dealing with a drug addict can make life seem hopeless as you helplessly watch your loved one waste away from their disease. You try everything you can think of to get them to stop using. You spend your resources bailing them out of the constant crises their addiction causes, without any end to the trouble they get into in their disease. There are medical bills, housing crises, legal problems, even prison, yet nothing seems to get them to see what their addiction is doing and stop using. They may stay clean for a while and you regain hope only to have it crushed by a relapse. The monstrous addiction destroying your loved one is stronger than ever before.
Nar-Anon offers concrete help for families of drug addicts. By working the Twelve Steps of recovery and connecting with others who are going through the same ordeal, you can find hope and regain some of the serenity and joy life held before your loved one’s addiction became your primary focus. Nar-Anon is an anonymous group. You do not have to worry that by going to meetings you are endangering or betraying your loved one if they’re using an illegal drug. By seeking help and recovery yourself, you could inspire your loved one to also recover.
Nar-Anon meetings for families of drug addicts are held all over the U.S. and internationally. Drug addiction is a worldwide problem and those millions of people who love addicts are also learning how to let go of their anguish and live healthier, happier lives, even if their family member or friend never recovers.
NAR-ATEEN is for young people with addicted loved ones. Millions of young people with addicted parents or friends have asked themselves the question, ‘Do drug addicts love?’ Though an addict’s behavior can be incredibly selfish and irrational, addiction is a disease and your loved one is acting from a compulsion that is beyond their control.
The best thing you can do to help your addicted loved one is to take care of yourself. Because addicts do love and most likely your addicted parent, family member or friend really doesn’t want to cause you pain or warp you emotionally so that you become sick too.
If your family member or friend is addicted, you can connect with others who share your grief, confusion, and anger. By working the Twelve Steps and supporting each other you can go forward together into a happy, healthy and normal future, even if your loved one stays sick.
Parents of Addicted Loved Ones
PARENTS OF ADDICTED LOVED ONESis an organization where people come together to support each other, share their stories, and find solutions. PAL is not a Twelve Step group, but many supplement their Twelve Step meetings with PAL group support.
Though the group name, Parents of Addicted Loved Ones, implies that to belong to this group you must have an addicted child, PAL offers support to all who find themselves taking a parental role in their relationship with an addicted loved one. This can include
Anybody in a relationship where your role is parenting the addict
One of the exercises PAL groups use is to picture your addicted loved one’s age. Many parents of addicts found they visualized their offspring as an adolescent, even if the addict was an adult. The truth is that when somebody becomes addicted they stop growing emotionally. When you use a substance to shut down your feelings you don’t have a chance to grow up through dealing with everyday life and the normal emotions and feelings life commonly causes.
PAL was founded in 2005 by Licensed Independent Substance-Abuse Counselor (LISAC) Michael Speakman. While working as a counselor for addicts he found that addiction affects the entire family in a way that’s overwhelmingly destructive. Especially parents of addicts feel helpless, scared, guilty and alone. He founded PAL to offer support for families of addicts. When people connect to others who also have an addicted child they can regain hope and begin to heal.
Since its inception in 2005, PAL has grown to become a nationwide organization, and it is still growing due to an overwhelming need. The website says that if there isn’t a meeting close to where you live you could start one yourself. Many people find healing in service work which connects to others with the same problem and offers mutual support. To find a PAL meeting nearby or to learn how to start a PAL group in your town, visit the online PAL meeting locator.
Getting Treatment Help
If someone you love is in danger due to addictive behaviors you can find treatment centers by going to the home page of our site and entering your zip code, or calling the number at the top. Alternatively you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Support Agency (SAMHSA) to speak with someone about where you can find addiction treatment for your loved one. In the meantime, do the smart thing and take care of yourself by visiting a support group like the ones mentioned in this page.