What’s Going On?
The phrase above is more than the title to a golden oldies song by Marvin Gaye. Whenever someone in a family needs to get residential substance abuse treatment, there are always social problems that must be addressed in order for treatment to be successful. Addiction is just the tip of the iceberg, so let’s see what else is going on.
Criminal Activity. Alcohol is legal—for adults—but most drugs are not. If the substance of choice is alcohol to a point beyond drunkenness, whether or not the abuser is an adult, it’s illegal. If someone is taking a prescription not intended for him or not as directed, it’s illegal. If someone is taking an illegal drug—well, it’s illegal.
The addict puts his family’s safety at risk if he is buying drugs from somebody. It’s impossible to know if he will end up owing money that he can’t pay, and the dealer then looks to the family for payment. If you find yourself in that position and you question your safety, remember that the safety of yourself and your family comes first. Don’t try to fight the person, even if you have to pay up.
Your next step is to back your family member into a legal corner. Most people resist the idea of stopping their alcohol or substance abuse until a judge or magistrate tells them they have to get help. So how do you get that person in front of a judge?
Many family members insist that often they’ve called the police, who did nothing. The real question is: did you press charges? The day after you call the police, you have to march down to the police station, get a copy of the police report, and then drive over to your county courthouse and press charges against your child/parent/sibling. In most counties there is no fee to press charges against a family member. Your intent is not to put the person in lockup—although at least if he’s in jail he’s not using drugs or running with dealers—but to get him in front of a someone with the power to order him into treatment. Even then, he might refuse; and for some, jail is a choice. Just be prepared for that person to tell you he hates you—but someday, he will thank you.
Chances are good that your addicted family member sooner or later will be pulled over for drunken or intoxicated driving. Once again, that gives you a chance to go to court and ask the judge to order treatment.
Family Dysfunction. When addiction affects a family, people’s emotional levels run high and communication levels plummet. Family members shout at, blame, curse, and push one another’s buttons to no end. What everybody needs is education about drugs and alcohol and counseling to improve family functioning.
Abuse. Many people who use drugs abuse their family members. If you are being physically, verbally, or sexually assaulted by someone in your family, then call your local help hotline to find a temporary shelter. That doesn’t mean you can never resume a relationship with that person, but you shouldn’t see them again until you are both in front of a counselor. On the other hand, many people who abuse substances are self-medicating because they have been victimized by someone in their past. If that’s the case, then call your local county mental health office to find a treatment professional for that person. If you or that person works, call the human resources department and ask about an employee assistance program (EAP). You can call anonymously to get the information about the EAP counselor.
The effects of addiction spread far and wide throughout a family and indeed into the community. Calling a residential substance abuse treatment center is your first step to get help for that person, and it’s also going to help with a whole lot of other issues. Take a deep breath, and make the phone call.