Family Choices For Dealing With a Addiction

Today I worked with a very familiar case scenario. An anguished mother contacted me about her son who is abusing drugs and alcohol. She wanted to know what she could do about his using. I have met with families who are at their wits end after trying every possible approach they could think of.

Very few addicts spontaneously stop using and maintain their sobriety. It is generally accepted that a treatment intervention of some sort is required. Whether this intervention come through a 12 step fellowship, a clinic or a religious experience is immaterial; the fact remains that addicts can’t seem to get clean without outside help of some sort.

I presented her with the dilemma she faces: If her son is unable or unwilling to seek help then she can either force him into treatment or she can stand back and hope that he reaches “rock bottom” (a point where hypothetically an addict becomes willing to ask for help).

Certain organizations suggest that parents learn how to cope with their anxiety and allow their children to reach rock bottom. They maintain that the addict will not stop using until the pain of quitting is less than the pain of using. Of course, very few families want to stand back and watch a loved one walk the path of destruction associated with addiction. There is a very real possibility of death, either through overdose, suicide or accidents arising from the high-risk lifestyle.

If she chooses to force her son into managed care on the grounds that he is unable to care for himself then she faces his anger.

Thus many families find themselves upon the horns of a dilemma: They perceive that they will lose the loved one to death or destruction if the addiction continues and they will lose the loved one to anger if they force the addict into treatment.

A useful suggestion to families can be that they place a “bottom line” on the addict’s behavior. This technique explicitly states a course of action the family will take if the addict does the bottom line behavior.

A Family’s Perspective

Addiction is more than a series of bad choices; it’s a chronic disease that significantly impacts brain function affecting reward, motivation and memory systems. Recognising this can be the first step in understanding a loved one’s struggle with addiction. It’s important to understand that those battling addiction often feel enslaved by their dependency with their actions driven more by compulsion than conscious choice.

Families are often on the front lines of addiction. Their role is crucial, yet delicate. Early intervention can be life-saving but it’s vital to distinguish between support and enablement. Support means encouraging the loved one to seek professional help and maintaining a healthy and supportive home environment, while enablement involves actions that inadvertently support the addiction like giving money that could be used for drugs or alcohol.

Treatment vs. Waiting for Rock Bottom

Intervention is a tough choice. Forcing a loved one into treatment can lead to resistance and anger, yet waiting for them to reach rock bottom carries severe risks, including the possibility of overdose or legal troubles. Both options have their pros and cons and the decision largely depends on the individual circumstances of the addict and their family.

Living with addiction takes an emotional toll on family members. It’s important for family members to look after their mental health. Seeking therapy, joining support groups and practicing self-care are vital. Setting healthy boundaries and learning to cope with the stress and anxiety that come with a loved one’s addiction are essential for maintaining your well-being.

Families can use “bottom line” behaviour to set clear boundaries. This involves explicitly stating the consequences if the addicted individual continues their destructive behavior. These boundaries are not punishments but protective measures for the family’s well-being and a way to encourage the loved one to seek help.

Recovery is for the individual and the family.

Being part of the recovery process means understanding the challenges of sobriety, engaging in therapy sessions where appropriate and learning about relapse prevention. It’s a path filled with challenges but also with opportunities for healing and rebuilding stronger relationships.

Remember, seeking professional help is crucial. Addiction treatment centers, therapists specialising in addiction and support groups can provide the necessary support for recovery. Recovery is not a straightforward path but with the right support, dedication and understanding, it is possible. As families, your support, love and understanding play an invaluable role in the path towards a healthier, sober life.

Rehab Icon
Addiction can be treated. We have firsthand experience and can offer real insights or support for you or your loved one. Contact us today or call us on 081 444 7000 for a confidential conversation.

Founded in 2008, WeDoRecover has evolved from an advisory service for addiction treatment into a comprehensive provider of care, following its 2019 merger with Changes Addiction Rehab in Johannesburg. Specialising in connecting patients to top-tier addiction treatment centers in the UK, South Africa and Thailand, WeDoRecover supports individuals globally, including those from the United Arab Emirates and Europe. Accepting both South African medical aid and international health insurance our organisation facilitates access to high-quality treatment for substance and alcohol use disorders, offering individualised care that addresses the physical, mental and social needs of patients.


Scroll to top
Call Us Now