|Therapist Berni Fried acknowledges that many drug addicts keep their daily habits to themselves in hopes that others remain unaware of their dangerous behaviors. In this conversation with Oceans 2003, Berni Fried shares how loved ones can offer their understanding and support even during the most difficult times.
Oceans 2003: Hello, Berni! Thank you for taking our call today.
Berni Fried: I’m honored to do so.
Oceans 2003: How should a loved one approach caring for an addict?
Berni Fried: To be loving and nonjudgemental. To be able to encourage but without being punitive.
Oceans 2003: What does this mean exactly…?
Berni Fried: It means accepting the aspects of life that are beyond one’s control and loving someone who may be involved in addictive behaviors. It is imperative to be educated about enabling and learning how to set boundaries so that there is safety in the relationship.
Oceans 2003: Does this sort of attitude apply to all types of addiction?
Berni Fried: Yes. A proactive approach is always beneficial in these matters, no matter what demons the addicts may be fighting. Setting appropriate boundaries with the addict is pivotal. However, being able to recognize that the loved one, the addict, struggles with a “disease” is important. This “disease” is a mental, emotional and often physical disorder. The addict is not trying to hurt his or her family members. One must learn how to love and support, yet detach from the addict’s destructive behaviors.
Oceans 2003: What are some of the most common types of addiction?
Berni Fried: In addition to alcoholism and drug abuse, other addictions include gambling, smoking, over-spending and eating disorders.
Oceans 2003: Is there one particular method that works best across the board?
Berni Fried: It is critical that the family of any addict become educated to understand the level of manipulation and pain an addict can inflict on friends and family. It is critical that the family understands that this is an illness. Setting boundaries is important, while being loving but not enabling is also very helpful.
Oceans 2003: What type of support is needed for the family who is dealing with a loved one in trouble?
Berni Fried: Alanon and helping professionals in the field of addiction can support the family in learning about how to best gain perspective and support. Seeking out 12 step meetings for the family and going to a therapist skilled in the area of addictions is also vital.
Oceans 2003: What’s perhaps the most effective skill to develop?
Berni Fried: In my opinion, deciding how to establish appropriate and maintain a strict set of boundaries is a critical skill.
Oceans 2003: How can I achieve this task?
Berni Fried: Families of Addicts need support. It is pivotal that the family become educated and learn about Alanon. It is helpful if the family is supported by a professional therapist. This can help guide the family out of enabling behaviors and serve as a sounding board for the family.
Oceans 2003: What are some of the guidelines in helping to support the family in this process?
Berni Fried: In my experience, another vital element of this process is learning about what Addiction is? Also how the addicts behavior affects the family and how denial plays a central role in the treatment of the family members.
Oceans 2003: Why is denial the central component to address when working with the family?
Berni Fried: Many families struggle with the idea that their loved one has a problem. Many families would rather put their head in the sand and look the other way. It is a hard fact when the family realizes that their family member has a huge addiction issues.
Oceans 2003: Why is education so important to “helping” the Addict
Berni Fried: Many families that struggle with an addict in their lives have a hard time knowing how to support or “help” the addict. Often enabling or trying to protect the addict gets in the way of recovery.
Oceans 2003: Could you explain what you mean by that?
Berni Fried: Even when the addict continues to engage in negative habits and behaviors, it’s important to be there and listen to his or her fears and concerns. But setting appropriate boundaries is critical in knowing how to address the addiction itself.
Oceans 2003: What is the intended result of these recovery efforts?
Berni Fried: The intention is to offer support and love to the addict struggling without enabling behaviors. Knowing how to support the addict however remaining detached is critical. .
Oceans 2003: It’s been wonderful having you here to speak on this subject. We thank you again.
Berni Fried: We need to carry on these conversations as a way to inform people and encourage the recovery community as we help our clients find recovery and integrate it into their lives.
With great clarity and purpose, Berni Fried exudes warmth through her therapy sessions at Wonderland EPA. Her goal is to offer guidance to all clients so that they may eventually lead productive, healthy and happy lives without the use of drugs or alcohol.