Families caught in the wreckage of addiction feel embarrassed, abandoned, ashamed and guilty. They often tend to isolate themselves because they fear what others may think. They want to hide the truth from themselves and others. Addiction is a family problem, and it affects everyone involved. Frustrated families fall into a self-imposed trap, mistakenly thinking they can control someone else’s behavior. Their thinking goes something like this:
- “If I just say this another way, he will understand.”
- “If I say this enough times, she will finally get it.”
- “If I explain myself in a new way, he will see how he is hurting me.”
Family members desperately want the addict or alcoholic they love to change, but they can only change themselves. Some simple adages explain it best:
- “Nothing changes if nothing changes.”
- “If you keep doing the same things, you are going to get the same results.”
Willingness to change, particularly to change thinking, goes a long way in helping family members heal themselves.
Actions Really Do Speak Louder Than Words
In many cases, addicts and alcoholics can charm birds out of the trees with their words. They know how to say what their families members want to hear. They make empty promises, even though they may want to keep them. No matter what they say, they behave in the same way as they always do when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Likewise, the words of family members become empty. They beg; they plead; they threaten; they scream; they argue. All of these tactics do little but fuel the fire. Action, instead of reaction, goes farther than words. In fact, sometimes new action for family members means inaction. Instead of cleaning up after their addicted loved ones, allow them to clean their own mess. Instead of calling the boss to make an excuse, allow the boss to communicate directly with the addict. As difficult as it is, the best action for families is to go about their own business and allow addicts to experience the consequences of their behavior.