What to do when drugs steal your loved one.

It is saddening to watch anyone struggle with substance addiction, when that person is also a family member; the situation often becomes agonizingly complicated. Peter Omondi, a clinical psychologist rids families of the ignorance that prevents them from dealing with the situation in a responsible and healthy way.

“Addiction is a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences. These stimuli increase the probability of repeating a particular behavior and over time tolerance towards the stimuli develops. Tolerance is the diminishing in effect if a drug due to continuous administration and it leads to dependence. Dependence is an addictive state associated with withdrawal symptoms upon sensation of repeated exposure to a stimuli or the drug intake. Addicts are people who have developed a desire to self medicate in attempt to regulate and control a troubled and turbulent inner world through their drug of choice.” Mr. Omondi explains some of the common terms used in regard.

Family often means well, but their interventions in many situations are misinterpreted for being judgmental, nosy or plain annoying. Mr. Omondi, who works at the Asumbi Treatment Centre, acknowledges that addicts are cunning emotional minefields and advices family on how to navigate without tiptoeing around the issue.

First Step

“The social stigma attached to addiction makes users and sometimes families adopt denial as a coping mechanism. You must not make excuses or try to find reasons for your relative’s drug habit. The relative can then make the addict aware that their mission is not to victimize them but to help them. Discuss openly problems brought out by addiction that are very clear. The aim of this is to get a clear view of how the addicted person views his or her addiction. Exercise patience because most addicts exist in denial and either shut down or become aggressive in attempt to deflect. After acceptance assert your willingness to join forces in helping your relative reclaim their life”

Whether they chose a see a counselor or check into a rehabilitation center, a recovering addicts support network plays a large role in their progress. Mr. Omondi warns against ‘enabling’ which the greatest challenge to recovery for addicts. “Enabling’ is a therapeutic term denoting a destructive form of helping. Any act that helps the addict to continue drug taking without suffering the consequences is considered ‘enabling behavior’. The ‘enabler’ is a person who may be impelled by his own anxiety and guilt to rescue the addict from his problems. Some examples of enabling behavior are paying back the debts incurred by the user, justifying their use of drugs “

“Rebuilding relationships and regaining trust is the toughest part of the recovery for most families. Family should be careful not express the disappointment and anger inappropriately as this makes the situation worse. Once your relative takes active steps to change their habits, family must be supportive lest improper care makes the person relapse into their old habits. Families should avoid; silent treatment, lying to the addict, making threats, cancelling their plans, assuming responsibilities, lecturing, bribing the addict or invading privacy to search for drugs.”


Family members often suffer equally if not more then addict, and Mr. Omondi recommends Al-anon to help cope with disillusionment and other troubling emotions. “Al-Anon is a fellowship of family members of chemical dependents and is a safe haven to share their problems and feelings with one another. These members work out methods to manage problems and improve the quality of their lives so that even if the addict refuses to seek help, their lives will be manageable. ” Al-anon meetings are commonly conducted in churches and community halls, but one can find active and supportive groups on the Internet as well.

“Family should remember that most addicts battle with self loathing and any judgment or negativity piled on them has results opposite from those intended. Willing addicts in the right environment make a full recovery and lead normal healthy lives.”

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