When you have an addicted sibling, it honestly feels like losing a best friend.
"I watched my sister go downhill so quickly. I never thought an addiction could take over someone's life that fast. Her drug and alcohol abuse started right after her husband left her. She's now a single mom with two small children at home. It wasn't long before the alcohol and drug abuse became the most important things in her life. They were even more important than her family.
"I tried to help her as much as I could, but I didn't know if I was doing the right things. I kept my niece and nephew at my house overnight because she was just too high to care for them. I worried about them, and I wanted to be sure they were safe. Looking back, I can see where that was probably the wrong thing for me to do.
"It took a night in jail to wake her up. The judge ordered addiction treatment or more jail time. She chose treatment, thank God. Today, things are better, but I can't help but think I should have done more."
It's possible that you've been noticing some strange behaviors from your brother or sister lately. They have made you suspicious that your sibling might be using drugs or alcohol. However, you need to know how you can tell for sure.
There are some signs of addiction that can help you determine what's really happening. Some of these include:
Have you noticed any of these addiction signs? If you have, then your sibling could be battling an addiction. If you're still not sure, try taking a quiz that will ask you some more questions. This can be very helpful. It will also give you some direction regarding what you can do to get help for your brother or sister.
Enabling an addiction to continue is something that a lot of families do. Most of the time, they don't even realize they're doing it. You want your brother or sister to be happy. You want to help them feel good, and you want to take care of them. That's just what families do for each other. However, what you might not realize is that you actually could be making the situation so much worse.
So, how do you know if you've become an enabler? There are several things you might be doing that enable your sibling. They include:
If any of these sound familiar to you, you are an enabler. However, please don't feel bad if you are. Many people are enablers but they don't know it. The most important thing you can do is to stop enabling. There are a few ways that you can do that.
Once you realize you've been enabling your sibling, you need to stop. You could just stop doing all of the things you've been doing. However, it might be better for you to take a different approach.
Try having a conversation with your brother or sister. Maybe you've never really talked with your addicted sibling about the problem before. If not, this is a good time to have that conversation. To begin, you want to educate yourself about addiction. Learn as much about it as you possibly can.
Choose a time to talk with your sibling when he or she isn't drunk or high. This can be tricky, but early in the morning seems to be a good time. When you start the conversation, let your sibling know that you're coming from a place of concern. Tell them that you're worried about the substance abuse, and you want to help.
Be honest and be firm in your conversation. Tell your brother or sister that you know you've been doing some things you shouldn't do. Regardless of what it is, tell your sibling that you're not going to do those things anymore. Tell them that it's for their own good, and because you want them to recover.
This conversation will probably not be an easy one for you. You will most likely be met with a lot of resistance from your sibling. He or she may start throwing accusations at you, or trying to manipulate you. Be prepared for this, and withstand the temptation to give in. Most importantly, stand your ground. It is crucial for you to stay strong and not go back to enabling after you've had this conversation.
If you've put a stop to the enabling and talked with your sibling, perhaps nothing has changed. He or she may have found other ways to use drugs or alcohol. This is very typical, actually. Addicts tend to be quite resourceful when it comes to their addictions.
If nothing is changing, and the behavior continues, it might be time to take the next step. This means scheduling an intervention.
An intervention is a meeting that is overseen by an interventionist. It is held at a predetermined location, and many people attend. You'll invite friends, family, and of course, your addicted sibling. Before the intervention occurs, you'll talk with the interventionist. He or she will have some words of wisdom to pass along to you. You'll be given direction on what you should say during the meeting.
Interventions are often very hard for families. It's difficult to drudge up those old memories and talk about a painful subject. However, it is still very necessary, in most cases. Interventions usually become very emotional. You'll probably shed a lot of tears.
Your sibling may be touched that so many people care about him or her. They may be willing to go to treatment right away. Part of an intervention is making your sibling make an immediate decision. It's not something that they should have the opportunity to think about. The good news is that most people do agree to get treatment. However, what happens when they don't?
If your sibling decides not to go to addiction recovery, there's more that you can do. During the intervention, you probably set some boundaries in place. Maybe you told your sibling they had to move out of your home. Or, perhaps you told them you were going to cut ties with them for your own well-being. Whatever those boundaries are that you set, it's important to stick to them.
This is obviously something that's hard for families to do. No one wants to see their loved one struggling with an addiction. However, it is actually the most loving thing you can do. What you'll probably find is that your loved one eventually does decide to go to treatment. Maybe they end up in jail and a judge forces them to get help. Or, perhaps they end up homeless and they decide they need to change.
Sometimes in order to see a change being made, people have to "help" other people hit rock bottom. It's hard, but in this case, it's absolutely necessary.
During all of this, it's very likely that you've forgotten the importance of caring for yourself. You spend all of your time worrying about your alcoholic or drug addict sibling. That means you've let your own needs fall by the wayside.
This can be incredibly dangerous for you. Worrying too much about this situation can cause you to:
You have to take care of yourself, and there are a few ways that you can do that.
Support groups can be a great resource for you. There are actually many support groups that are just for families of addicts. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are two of them. They hold meetings all over the United States. Their websites can help you find a meeting near you. These organizations were developed to give families of addicts a safe place to share. You need support during this difficult time in your life.
You can also get online support. SMART Recovery is an organization that offers a lot of great tools and help. They have regular meetings through their website, and you'll find a tremendous amount of support there.
If you feel that it might help you to talk with a therapist, you should do it. Therapy can be so good for those who are in your situation. You get to see things from a different perspective, and you're able to heal.
It can be so heartbreaking to know that your sibling is an addict. From the moment you first discover it, you feel as though you need to do something. Unfortunately, talking with your addicted brother or sister usually doesn't work very well. Sometimes it does, but when it doesn't, you need another option.
At Northpoint Washington, we frequently work with a lot of families. These are families who are concerned about their loved ones' addictions. Quite often, they've tried for years to help their loved ones see the need for addiction treatment. With our help, so many more of them have made the decision to get addiction help.
We want to offer that same opportunity to you. We offer drug and alcohol rehab to those who need it. We also provide intervention services to help your sibling see a need for alcohol and drug treatment. This is a situation that most families find they can't handle on their own. Our expertise helps, and we're happy to provide your family with our assistance.