Often families and friends are concerned about someone they love who uses alcohol and/or drugs. The person using drugs or alcohol may not be ready for recovery and the family may be at a loss as to how to handle the situation. Counseling can help the family learn new coping skills. This is often accomplished in one or two sessions. It is possible that once the family gets help, the substance user will also accept help, too. Once the family changes the way it handles the situation, the drug or alcohol user will have to make some changes. That change may be to enter a recovery program.
If the substance user is entering into the recovery process, the family may need counseling to help adjust to the changes. This is true of parents, spouses, adult children, friends, and others who are close to him or her. A single session may be enough to help the family at least a little in this situation.
Shame & Guilt Prevent Treatment and Recovery
Shame and guilt are two of the main reasons substance abusers and their families take so long to reach out and accept help. Guilt says “I am doing something terribly bad and deserve to be treated that way.” Shame says that “I am a bad person and do not deserve anything good in life.” When these two beliefs about ourselves are combined, it becomes almost impossible to admit to others or to ourselves that we are doing something wrong, like using drugs or drinking too much.
The same thing goes for family members. When they feel guilty or shameful about the substance abuse of someone they care about, they will also deny the seriousness of the problem and not reach out for help.
Shame and guilt often makes family members believe that their own behavior causes the substance abuser to use. They feel if their behavior or attitude were different, the addict would change. When change does not happen, they feel that there is something wrong with them (shame). They try harder to behave in a way that will help the addict. The addict will then blame the family member, and the family member will believe his or her own behavior is the problem (guilt). It is a never-ending cycle until they accept help.
Part of the problem is often people believe addiction and alcoholism are “moral” problems rather than a disease. Instead of seeing the problem as a disease, others often see the substance abuser as just a bad person or a sinful person. When chemically dependent people and families start to understand that addiction is a physical, emotional, spiritual, and social disease, they may not stop feeling the guilt and shame.