8 Reasons Why Families or Friends Don’t Get Help & Don’t Get Involved
By Carole Bennett, MA
For the last several weeks, I have been writing a blog on substance abuse and addiction. So, when I read the article on the Huffington Post about the tragedy of the victims that died due to Diane Schuler’s substance abuse, I requested my editor allow me to post a blog in response.
For those who have not read or heard about this horrific event, here is a brief recap. Written with sensitivity and pathos, Dr. Tian Dayton reported that Diane Schuler was so intoxicated and “high” on marijuana that she entered a busy highway going the wrong direction killing herself, four passengers, and three others in the oncoming car.
The article continues with a bull's-eye quote from Sis Wenger, Pres. /CEO of The National Association for Children of Alcoholics, where she states, “Addiction isn’t something people want to acknowledge or talk about.” Truer words were never spoken.
Years ago, I founded a family counseling center in an effort to help the friends and families of the alcoholic/addict learn how to help their loved ones by establishing their own boundaries and turning off the co-enabling, co-dependent switch. I believe in a total recovery program; not just for the alcoholic/addict, but for all involved, or it turns out to be a lop-sided effort.
We know that the alcoholic/addicts are the only ones who can change their behavior. They attend 12-Step meetings and enlist a sponsor in their efforts toward sobriety. So why is it that the people who love them bury their heads in the sand when it comes to seeking guidance for them in conjunction with helping the alcoholic/addict with their struggles?
Here are eight reasons why these well-meaning individuals believe that they don’t need help or shouldn’t get involved.
1) Embarrassment and shame. People may view them as bad parents, unable to control their children's behavior, or as being unable to “control” their spouses or other family members. They fear being seen as irresponsible in the upbringing of their children or worry that they will be viewed as disrespectful to their spouse. The shame of it all, with tongues wagging and fingers pointing behind their backs, leaves them too embarrassed to admit such a problem to anyone!
2) Privacy. It’s nobody’s business. They don’t air their dirty laundry. They will work this out as a family in the privacy of their own home.
3) Denial. He/she isn’t in trouble at work or with his/her home life, or with the law, so things aren’t that bad. It’s just a passing phase; it's nothing to worry about. Everyone needs an outlet or escape these days. It’s how he/she unwinds from a tough day.
4) Laziness. Someone else will handle the problem. The other spouse will deal with the child, the other sibling will deal with the parent, or this friend will deal with that friend.
5) Not wanting to make waves. They don't want to be punished or scolded for bringing up such a volatile issue. Discomfort in the possibility of being denied love or security. Peace at all cost ... no matter what that cost is.
6) Their child or spouse or friend is “doing better.” A few days of “normal” behavior and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. They’ve turned a corner, the worst is over -- or so they desperately want to believe.
7) The alcoholic/addict has promised they will get help, and please trust them, as all will be fine. After a couple of AA meetings or even professional counseling, then all looks good, and there is another sigh of relief -- until the next incident.
8) Frightened. How involved do I really want/have to be? If the friend or family member seeks professional guidance, then they are now enmeshed and have to work on their part of the recovery and cannot just sit back and wait for their loved one to take action on their own. Old behaviors that have permeated the family member or friend have to now given way to different thinking and actions. Fear of not being able to follow through with new boundaries and expectations, coupled with the fear of anger and rejection from their loved one, the alcoholic/addict.
Of course no matter what we do, we CAN’T stop the alcoholic/addict from a life of self destruction if that’s the direction they are hell bent on going. But, we can do our part, and in essence are obligated to do our part by using whatever means available to thwart their downward spiral. Whether we seek assistance through a self-help program, individual counseling, or intervention, it is our responsibility to participate as best we can to help our loved ones try to reconstruct a life of sober, honest living. To pretend this disease doesn’t exist and conclude with any of the above excuses makes us as irresponsible as the alcoholic/addict.
I hope there was someone who desperately tried to take whatever action they could to help Diane Schuler from ultimately self destructing, and in turn, destroying others. If not, how sad; for it is a lesson now learned with the highest stakes lost and gone forever: human life.