Monday, March 15, 2010

How to help a family member who is addicted.

Fighting addiction can be a daunting, overwhelming and depressing battle. And, at the end of it all- only the addict themselves can, indeed, be in control. But that doesn't mean that you, as a loved family member or friend, can't help.

Interventionist Brad Lamm offers this advice to families who may be waiting for a loved one to hit rock bottom before they step in to help.

People who change rarely do so in a vacuum. They change with the support of others. Add to the mix a compulsive behavior that has a real physiological jolt to it—a rush, a high or a numbing out—and it's even that much harder again to begin change.

When it comes to facing a family member's addiction, like frogs, we come to accept greater and greater compromises until it becomes the easy way to live. We lull ourselves into thinking: "Tiger's okay. It's better lately." That thinking must stop and be replaced by this truth: "We will wait no longer nor try to beat the heat. We will act now in love, with purpose and a plan."

In Lamm's How to Change Someone You Love, his purpose was to turn the whole idea of change on its head and help Frogs jump and Tigers talk. Whether teaching or intervening, Lamm challenges families to start this process of change by jumping out of the increasingly costly situations they find themselves in.

The next step is that they throw out the myths that have kept them stuck in indecision in the first place:

Myth 1: He Has to Hit Bottom - The notion of hitting bottom is a lie. One compulsive addict Lamm had worked with described his urge to engage in his addictive behavior as all consuming. "I don't think straight for days at a time; it's like I'm crazy." He's in an altered state from it- a common occurrence- whatever the behavior. Why would we wait for him to think his way out of the problem? We don't need to. With some behavior, a "bottom" that people wait to hit is often someone, perhaps a spouse, or even a stranger, to get hurt. You can decide where the bottom is. You need not sink any further.

Myth 2: You Can't Change Someone - We are wonderful, adaptable, changeable creatures—and love is the greatest motivation of all for change. More than fear or danger. Love.

When Lamm takes an initial call from someone struggling to help a loved one, he all-too-often also hears the fear surrounding the myth that you can't change someone. It becomes his work to blow that lie out of the water. Lamm states, "If you care about someone who has a self-destructive problem, you are not powerless. In fact, the greatest power you have is the connectedness you have with your loved one. The human brain behaves like a 2-year old—tell it what to do, and it pushes back."

Instead, Lamm advises, invite your loved one into a family meeting. Combat the denial, the confusion and pain with love and your eyewitness accounts of the situation, and you're off to a strong start. Secrets and fear suck the oxygen out of the room when trying to enable change.

Fall into hope and love. It will serve you best.

Myth 3: You Can't Help Someone Unless He's Ready - Finally, Lamm challenges the myth that you cannot help someone begin change unless he's ready as nonsense. Through a loving invitation to change and family intervention, an addict can be helped to get ready.

While we may not agree with everything Lamm says, it at least challenges us to do something now.

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