More than twenty-two million Americans suffer from alcohol or other drug addictions. For each of these individuals, the disease significantly impacts at least ten other people, the majority of whom are in the affected individual’s family. When the peripheral costs of addiction—health care, insurance, criminal activities—are considered, virtually no one escapes its consequences.


We live in the midst of an addiction epidemic. The victims are younger, the drugs are more powerful, and the consequences are more severe. Narcotics such as heroin, prescription pain medications, methamphetamine, and crack cocaine are used by a generation of addicted people that has spread to every community, socioeconomic level, and ethnic culture. The group that absorbs by far the largest share of the impact is the family.


This book describes a set of strategies designed to help family members help their addicted loved one efficiently and effectively. The goal is to apply the widely accepted disease concept of addiction to practical, real-life situations encountered by people whose lives have been affected by an addicted loved one. The suggested strategies provide distraught friends and family members with insightful tools to caringly steer their loved one toward abstinence and recovery. Everyone wants to do the right thing to help; this book provides the guidance to do just that.


The purpose of this book is to impress on friends and family members that their addicted loved one cannot begin to get better until he experiences the consequences of his addiction, and that he will not obtain the personal motivation to seek help until the family ceases rescuing. By shedding the shrouds of secrecy and denial, families can effectively shift the consequences of the addiction from the family to the addicted individual.


Early involvement is vital. Families must become familiar with the disease of addiction regardless of their loved one’s willingness to enter treatment. Thus engaged, families are able to coordinate their actions with treatment providers to increase the potential for success. Organizations such as Al-Anon, Loved Ones Groups, and community addiction treatment agencies offer opportunities to learn about the realities of addiction, relapse, and the need for long-term treatment approaches.


There is no single, accepted “right” way to approach this subject. While many treatment and recovery agendas are available, the strategies embraced here are based on what has worked best for a large number of people over a significant period of time. The concepts are based on the results of science, personal experience, successful outcomes, and common sense. Perhaps less objectively, the suggestions also arise from years of caring about addicted loved ones and their families.


Though one measure of a book’s success is sales, our yardstick is the number of addicted loved ones who find recovery because of their family’s application of the principles espoused in these pages. This material is intended to provide insight into the often bizarre behavior of your loved one’s thinking. To refrain from rescuing your loved one from the consequences created by his addiction will be one of the most painful—and most loving—tasks that you will ever have to experience. Having personally felt your pain, we hope this small book will provide some measure of guidance and support during the process of helping your loved one save his life.

© The Counseling Center, Inc.

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