Five Things to Know About Coping With Unhealthy Family Behaviors
- Moving toward a healthy relationship with an addicted or recovering family member takes time; it's a process that requires patience.
- It is possible to improve your own life even when your loved one has not yet recovered from his or her addiction.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help.
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT COPING WITH UNHEALTHY FAMILY BEHAVIORS
1. Your love has power. Research has shown that family members can successfully learn techniques to get their substance-abusing loved ones into treatment. The CRAFT program teaches you how.
2. You are not alone. As isolated as you may feel as you cope with your loved one's substance use, the fact is that you are not alone. Millions of families are at this very moment suffering from problems just like yours. Although knowing that others suffer certainly doesn't lessen your pain, you may take hope from knowing that many have "solved" their problems and learned to live more satisfying lives. You can too.
3. You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. It is easier to get your loved one to listen to loving words than to criticism. Choose the honey alternative to nagging and threatening and help your loved one move toward sobriety by talking about what you do like about him or her and what positive changes please you.
4. You have as many tries as you want. Relationships are a process. They exist over time. One event or discussion rarely defines an entire relationship, so the truth is that you have as many tries at improving your relationship as you wish to take. As you develop better ways to interact with your loved one, take heart when things go well, but do not be overly discouraged when they go poorly. The next word, the next day, the next interaction gives you another chance to make a positive change.
5. You can live a happier life whether or not your loved one recovers. In a perfect world, you will successfully encourage your loved one to sober up. Whether or not his or her lifestyle improves, you can enhance yours. An important part of CRAFT is learning to take care of yourself, regardless of your loved one's behavior. Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading, and Threatening (Meyers & Wolfe, 2004) teaches you how to do that and feel good about it.
FIVE THINGS TO CONSIDER ABOUT COPING WITH UNHEALTHY FAMILY BEHAVIORS
1. You have alternatives. No matter the nature of the problem, it can get worse, stay the same, or get better. Odds are that if you change nothing, your loved one's drinking or drug use will continue to get worse, or at best stay the same. On the other hand, if you choose to learn alternatives to nagging, pleading, and threatening, you can help the problem to get better. So the choice is yours - if you want a better life, go for it!
2. Small steps carry you long distances. Although it may sometimes feel like right now is not soon enough for change to happen, small steps can make a huge difference in relationships. As you plan those steps, think about the best time to make your move and what small change would be most likely to have a positive outcome. Keep your safety, and those for whom you are responsible, at the forefront of your mind. Small carefully-timed changes will carry you the furthest.
3. Emotions are fluid. When you are frustrated, hurt, angry and exhausted, remember that these feelings are responses to current situations. When you change the way you interact with your loved one, the situations will change. When the situations change, so will your feelings. As you develop more effective ways of addressing his or her substance abuse, your emotional pain will gradually flow into feelings of confidence and hope.
4. Asking for help is a good thing. As you strive to enhance the quality of your life and help your loved one, turn to the people who love you and turn to the people who have learned to deal with similar problems. Ask for and accept help, and breathe a sigh of relief as things get better.
5. Patience pays. Family problems usually do not develop overnight and seldom go away in a single day. Take small steps and remind yourself that change takes time. If you patiently invest that time, your efforts will be rewarded with a happier future.