Last week, we talked about HOW you, as a loved one, can identify a meth addict’s use/abuse and, the need for you to get professionals involved from the jump.
By Pat Merriman
Dunn Co. State’s Attorney
Don’t wait—make the call! Remember, the addict’s children, spouse, general public and YOU are at risk too and, you CANNOT ignore that risk by staying in denial that this person is just “sick”, has it under control or is just being harassed by the cops. They ARE criminals because they ARE (and will continue) breaking the law! At training sessions, I always ask parents what they are willing to do to protect their children? The answer, “Anything” and, unfortunately that’s just not true. You see meth addiction is a group problem and requires a group solution. Why? Because the addict, by definition, is a liar. Every single thought, word or action is devoted to only one thing—getting out of the trouble they’re in and getting that next gram of meth. That’s it. No real concern for their loved ones because they are in the grip of their addiction… just the meth. You have to understand this completely. Because, you are either going to be part of the solution or, you (by default) are part of the problem. There are no fence-sitters. Like I tell my kids in karate class, you can’t buy a ticket, so, you aren’t a spectator.
Therapist Candace Plattor, in her column When You Enable an Addict You’re Not Helping, You’re Hurting, she nails it. First, loved ones don’t want to believe their addict is really a junkie, “After working for nearly 25 years with the loved ones of people struggling with addiction, I’m still amazed by how many come to their first session with me and say ‘I know I’m enabling, but…'” Plattor continues, “Are you already aware that you’re doing things you… shouldn’t be doing, in the guise of ‘helping’ them?” How do you enable the addict? It’s simple…you don’t condemn and force them to modify their behavior. You make excuses because you’re still seeing that cute, little 6-year old daughter… not the junkie. Thinking with your heart, not your head. And, if you ever want to have a prayer of seeing that child normal again… it’s Tough Love or, watch them deteriorate and die. Harsh? You bet but, I’ve been through this hundreds of times folks. This is a zero sum, loser dies proposition. The sooner you force the issue, the sooner the cavalry arrives. And, that includes the cops BEFORE the situation worsens. Get them the help they need, NOW!
Second, Plattor says just ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? As a loved one, know that what you’re doing isn’t working; in fact, in most cases, the problems continue and just get worse over time…you may be feeling very frustrated, helpless — and quite stuck.” As your States Attorney, I’m going to point you in the right direction right now- – contact the authorities and get these guys some help NOW. We don’t want to interact with these guys when they’re high, tweaking and dangerous. WE WILL HELP YOU! But, your “enabling” simply makes the situation worse because it actually keeps the addiction going. Plattor gives the classic examples. “Randy gives money to his addicted sister because he fears that she won’t be able to buy food if he doesn’t — even though he knows that she spends the money he gives her on drugs…At least I know that she’s safe here with me.” NO…she’s not! And, neither are you nor your other loved ones!
“Julia pays her boyfriend’s rent…she rarely receives a thank you for her efforts… she is stuck in fantasy thinking…’If I just love him enough, he’ll change.'” NO…he won’t. “At 35, Tess’ parents still allow her to live in the family home due to her longtime addiction and apparent inability to hold a job. They don’t set clear and appropriate boundaries about what is expected of her, so she brings sketchy people and illegal drugs into their home. Tess is often high while there, and she doesn’t contribute in any positive way, at times becoming quite abusive with her parents both verbally and physically. Her parents don’t feel they can ask her to leave –’What if we kick her out and she’s on the street?'” NO…she’s on the street right now and you’re helping keep her there! She’s only using you as a crash pad…nothing more.
And, here’s the insidious part of this love-hate, codependent enabling. You lose your own self-respect and the addict has no reason to do anything but continue, like a leech, to suck the life out of you. “The dysfunctional, addictive behaviors continue — because the most effective way to stop addiction is to stop the enabling that so often accompanies it.” It is simply self-guilt of the enabler– you are ashamed about the addiction problem. You really are blaming yourself for some shortcoming that CAUSED your loved one to begin, and continue, using meth. NO…you did not! Meth happens to good people. It’s pure, tangible evil and it IS going to kill the addict, you and every positive aspect of your relationship with them. They will bankrupt you if you let them and leave you in the dust. That’s the grip of this drug! If someone was choking the life out of your kid, you wouldn’t make excuses for them being choked— you kick the living crap out of their assailant!
Third, remember, no one “chooses” to become an addict. The junkie actually believes that they are that “special” one who can’t become addicted. Plattor continues, “there always comes a time when addicts know there’s something wrong and that they’re in trouble. It is at this point that they have a choice — to either remain in active addiction or to begin some type of active recovery.” The ball is in their court and you must force them, if necessary, to confront that choice. Remember, “As the loved one of an addict, you are NOT responsible for the choices the addict is making… it’s your responsibility to change what you’re doing. And once you do that, you’ll feel far less guilt and a lot more self-respect.” You can’t change this addict but, you can change yourself. And, “It takes courage for you to look within and to do whatever you can to contribute to healthier ways of being the loved one of someone with an addiction.”
Fourth, don’t be afraid of the coming conflict! You can’t be a people-pleaser and cure this problem. Simply put, the addict is capitalizing, in fact insuring, that you will put their needs ahead of your own. You are NOT being a “nice person” or a “good parent”, you are enabling! And, this addict is NOT going to change until change is forced when they hit rock bottom! You don’t want to become a second addict, i.e., a codependent who becomes addicted to pleasing this addict and meeting dangerous and disrespectful behavior in return. You have to “man up” and set “firm, healthy boundaries with appropriate, self-respecting consequences attached to them.” Addicts, says Plattor, “need their loved ones to make it as uncomfortable as possible for them to remain in their active addiction. If you have an addict in your life, this is actually the most loving thing you can do for them, because it holds them to a higher standard and encourages them to take responsibility for themselves.” And, Plattor adds, if your addict is abusing meth, “you need to do this before he or she dies out there.”
Fifth, Counselor Jodee Redmond recommends these 5 steps to stop enabling addiction: (1) educate yourself about drug addiction; (2) stop providing financial support to your addict; (3) allow the addict to suffer as a consequence of their actions; (4) don’t take responsibility for the addict’s problems; and (5) get on with your own life. If they are arrested and prosecuted, don’t make excuses for them. Guys, harsh, but true. As Redmond concludes, a family dealing with an addict begins to change their habits and behavior to accommodate the addiction. They stop their social life because they are embarrassed. “It’s healthier for everyone in the family to focus on school, work and hobbies, rather than constantly focus on the addict and her issues. Getting counseling will help the family members stay on track and stop enabling the addict.”
Finally, contact law enforcement for both your own safety and, to start the rehabilitation process. I’m sorry but, you and your other loved ones are at real, personal risk from the addict. They are dangerous. And, at the end of the day, if someone contacts law enforcement BEFORE we are forced to intervene, we will stand with you shoulder-to-shoulder to help avoid a criminal record and prison. You are not responsible and this person needs help. Until they are forced to face their addiction and, enter treatment, they are NOT going to do it voluntarily— probably ever. That’s the sad truth. And, we are here to help. Even if that means filing charges. More next week.