“When an adult child recognizes that he has a problem with alcohol–-even has called himself an alcoholic but refuses any help–-are there things that we, as the parents, can do to bring the adult child closer to getting help?
Are there things to avoid saying/doing?”
There can be many variables with this question but let me give it a try.
First of all, regardless of the age, most know that stopping substance use and abuse is going to be difficult. It means making many changes and most of us resist change. It’s the same for a person who has found himself in a bad (very bad) marriage. Those who know the person can see how the relationship has deteriorated and so can the person—but they delay facing the inevitable. Why? Fear of the unknown.
So it is with the addict. They often know, but fear of the unknown will keep then stuck. The “unknown” for the addict is—trying to imagine life without drugs and also everything AND everybody that goes along with it.
What can family members or friends do about the addiction? The better question might be, what can they stop doing? Often the family will buy into the addict’s belief that their situation is unique, different (which means that the addict has “a good excuse for being the way they are”). Going one step further, the addict now may believe, and have those close to him believing that it’s something “outside of him” that is to blame.
The family needs to become educated on this topic and then move toward using some tough love. No rescuing, loaning money, bonding out of jail, paying utilities. Allow the consequences to do the work they are meant to do. Pain is a wonderful teacher. The addict will need to learn some lessons the hard way.
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I can also say it works. “Taking care of things” for addicts denies them a learning opportunity. Most addicts have to put their hand in the fire to know it’s hot. That’s just how their minds work. Let them get burned or they will continue their behavior.
Don’t believe that you lose control when they turn 18. We put our son on the street at age 18 because he refused to obey the rules of our house and get into a program. Six months later he returned, admitting he needed help. He’s over three years sober today.
Plus, remember that in their altered state, they will do anything to keep doing what they want to do. They know you are fearful and will manipulate you into that feeling for their own benefit. They will lie, cheat, steal. So do NOT believe their threats or stories. Be strong for yourself, and the rest of your family, who do not deserve to dragged down with the addict.
“The family needs to become educated on this topic and then move toward using some tough love. No rescuing, loaning money, bonding out of jail, paying utilities. Allow the consequences to do the work they are meant to do.”
This works, this works, oh this works. I wish I would have heard this from counselors 20 years ago. I was the one paying my husbands way (utilties, loaning money, borrowing money, bailing out of jail) everyone of those for 20 years.
I have heard many counselors in my day, and read many books. Joe, you are right on target educating the family (co-dependants or enablers). Sometimes I think to help an addict the family has to be reached or educated first. Tough love works!!!!! My husband is living proff, it works!!!
I think for many family members they think tough love is to tough, they cannot watch their love one destroy themselves. The family thinks each time they give an addict money and a place to live they are helping. Not the truth, tough love is tough, but watching someone kill themselves with drugs or drinking is more tough. Joe, what great work you do!!!