Killing Them with Love

One of the most difficult things about working with addicts can be working with the families.  The families are scared to death that the next phone call will be the police, or God forbid, the morgue.  I know that I put my family through hell.  However, the best thing that loved ones can do for the addict in their life is to let them go with love when they relapse.  Trying to “save” the addict doesn’t work.  I always counsel families to support health and recovery, not sickness.

I recently worked with a family who keeps trying to “save” their child.  Unfortunately, the message that they send the addict is counterproductive as well as counter-intuitive.  The client was doing fairly well although struggling behaviorly, and we were trying to work with that client to become less entitled and more humble and willing, without much success.  The client got a job finally which was great.  Unfortunately, that client no longer felt that the rules applied to him/her and when we tried to enforce the rules, that client decided to leave treatment.

However, that client didn’t have a plan for living or many life skills and returned to addiction.  The client proceeded to also lose the job.  However, instead of cutting the client off, the family ran to the rescue.  This was the rescue plan…they took the client on a vacation, let the client go to inappropriate and dangerous venues and then kept the client in a hotel room instead of putting the client immediately back in a sober living environment as a requirement for getting back into the treatment facility.  The client didn’t like the sober living options and wanted to do it the client’s way.

Unfortunately again, the client had the family too terrified to say no or to make rational decisions.  Guess what, that client relapsed again and got his/her way…the client got to go back to another treatment center that wasn’t requiring behavioral change (yet), and now doesn’t have to work or take responsibility for life.

So what is the message here?  If I use drugs then I get vacations, hotels and go back to a cushy treatment environment.  But if I get sober then I actually have to take responsibility for my life and I have to work and pay my own way.  How’s that client going to learn about consequences and living life on life’s terms that way?  I know that the family meant well but rescuing that client will end up being that client’s demise.