What about the Families of those in Active Addiction?

If you love someone who is active in addiction; you are richly deserving of support. The intensity of the powerlessness we experience is overwhelming. The physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and financial toll on us is too often experienced in isolation. This has to change.

While legislators are declaring that Maine has a “drug crisis” (it has for well over 10 years) we are still doing too little to call attention to the needs of tens of thousands (perhaps many more) of Mainers who have active addicts as family members, spouses/partners, kin, and close friends.

I was given the opportunity to share this with a few Maine legislators last week:

– Drawing attention to how addiction impacts families will result in better overall health and well being for all Mainers. More tangibly, it will lead to education which leads to less enabling of addiction which leads to greater recovery rates and it costs us nothing and benefits us all.

There is no shame in having a loved one in addiction. It is by no means an indicator that we have failed in any capacity. To ensure that we do not unwittingly fail, we must understand what it means to enable. To enable is to protect an adult from suffering the natural consequences of their actions. This is not only counterintuitive, it goes against our hearts. Why would we allow a loved one to suffer?

Because there are exactly two motivators that move an active addict/alcoholic toward recovery: God and suffering. (Typically the latter comes long before the former.) Tough love is the only kind that works. It’s saying to an addict, “I care too much about you to support your destruction.”

The financial cost to families is incalculable and deceiving. It’s a few dollars to help with rent. It’s a small loan and another small loan and another. It’s bail money. It’s giving in the desperate hope that this will be the last time.

The fiscal cost of addiction in Maine is so high the numbers don’t seem real. To consider the cost in dollars in light of human lives being lost seems cold but it’s a responsibility our leaders must be accountable for.

They’re simply failing at it.

We’re throwing money at more and more of what doesn’t work – more prosecution and persecution and moreover, an utter denial of what’s been proven to work in other countries. Bottom line: governmental and traditional non-profit approaches have not stemmed this epidemic.

The best example of our leaders perspective is highlighted in the current bipartisan legislative plan for combating addiction has this provision for education:

“Encourage effective prevention and education programming in schools.
Estimated cost = minimal cost to incorporate existing programming in more schools across the state.”

This mindset and approach has been in place for 35 years. It’s not enough. It’s not even close.

Relying on public schools to educate our children about the dangers of substance abuse and addiction is not only misguided, it’s a denial of history and our personal responsibilities.

Addiction, directly and/or indirectly, impacts all of us.

We simply must come together within our families, neighborhoods, religious and civic communities. We must actively support one another. We must learn to separate what we can do from what we cannot and must not. Only then will we become effective in supporting our brothers and sisters in attaining recovery.

Nar Anon meetings are an incredible source of support for those who have loved ones in addiction. Google support groups in your area. If you’re in greater Bangor – I urge you to go meet some awesome folks Thursday nights 6pm at the St. Francis Center (across from ER entrance to St Joseph’s Hospital).

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.