Al-Anon, the twelve step fellowship group created for friends and family members of alcoholics, embraces a philosophy of three “C’s” when it comes to how they personally relate to another person’s addiction: cause, cure and control. “I didn’t cause it.” “I can’t cure it.” “I can’t control it.” In addition to these three “C’s”, the National Association for Children of Alcoholics introduces for more “C’s”: care, communicating, choices and celebrating. “I can help take care of myself by communicating my feelings, making healthy choices and celebrating me.” An adolescent sibling who becomes addicted changes the home. Addiction in the home through a sibling or close loved one can be confusing to younger siblings or older siblings. Addiction is a disease that is experienced personally, through the adolescent or teen sibling who is addicted, and a disease that is experienced relationally through the rest of the family. Talking about addiction with family members needs to be a safe, open, and honest conversation which empowers siblings to take care of themselves. When a sibling goes to treatment, it can bring up many questions, insecurities and fears about what addiction is and how a loved one in treatment is going to affect the home.
- Talk about addiction as a disease. Siblings might not be old enough to understand the complexity of brain chemistry and the specific mechanisms which lead to addiction in the brain.
- Use words that kids can understand to describe addiction: Child psychologists suggest using words that describe the way addiction takes over the brain to emphasize that addiction is not the fault of the sibling, but something that has happened to them. Words like: stuck, hooked, and trapped, are effective in describing the experience of addiction.
- Encourage trust and safety about being honest when it comes to drugs in the house. Addiction in a beloved sibling can be scary. Other siblings might find drugs, might find their sibling using drugs, or find them intoxicated on drugs. Despite potential threats or bargains, siblings need to know it is safe as well as important to report activity that involve drugs and/or alcohol regarding their addicted sibling.
- Remind siblings that they are loved and so is their loved one in treatment. Sending an addicted adolescent away to long term residential care can send mixed signals. Let siblings know that going away to get help doesn’t mean there isn’t love or care at home. When a sibling is sick, they go to the doctor. An addicted sibling is very sick and necessitates a different kind of treatment from many different doctors.
Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center offers comprehensive and customized treatment plans for every client at every level of care. Offering long term residential treatment programs for adolescent males experiencing substance use disorders, Stonewater serves Mississippi and the southern region with innovative, quality treatment. For information, call us today: 662-598-4214.