For almost every addict mired in this terrible disease, there is a family suffering too. Families are the hidden victims of addiction, enduring enormous levels of stress and pain, suffering deep anxiety and physical exhaustion brought on by worry and despair. Families tend to put their lives on hold and in a sense become hostage to the addiction, abdicating responsibility for their own well-being.
What families tend to forget is that they do not have to wait until their loved one has found recovery before they can begin to nurture themselves. In fact, families can rediscover simple pleasures, find ways to experience peace of mind, and even begin to laugh again—no matter what their loved one is doing. The key is for families to begin their own journey of recovery, learning healthier ways of interacting with their addicted loved one, and embarking on a path of self-healing. As families search for recovery, they are searching for peace of mind. Their lives can have value apart from their loved one’s struggles.
There are many books written by family members of those involved in addiction. Saving Jake: When Addiction Hits Home by DeAnn Burwell was reviewed earlier in this series. Others are An Addict in the Family by Bev Conyers, and The Only Life I Could Save: A Memoir by Katherine Ketcham. Websites such as hazeldenbettyford.org and projectknow.com offer help for families of those involved in substance abuse.
The following recommendations are a compilation from those websites and books. (This is not to be taken as treatment advice, but suggestions from various sources that have helped families in the past.)
The next article offers more help for families.
Lynn Saylor is the AmeriCorps member working with the United Against Opioid Abuse Initiative alongside the White County United Way. She is a major facilitator of the United Council on Opioids serving White County and a regular contributor to local media.