my brother is addicted to cocaine

dear heather,

About a year ago, I learned that my oldest brother was addicted to cocaine. He wanted help, so my family supported him in every way when he went to a clinic for over two months to seek help. He left the clinic and was clean and sober for over 10 months. He seemed like a completely new person, and was so happy! Unfortunately, we found out this morning that he is using again. I am dumbfounded, and have no idea how to handle this. I am not sure whether to say that I want to support him or whether to try to let him deal with it with my parents and for me to stay out of it, given the fact that it might hurt him more to know that I am hurt by his actions. We are an extremely close family. I want him to be healthy, safe, and happy. How can I deal with this and try to support him without making him feel like a bad brother for having a problem with drugs?

It’s really nice to hear how your family has come together around your brother’s drug use. It’s great that you have been able to offer him your support and caring during this process. But it’s not entirely surprising that the saga is not over. It almost always takes more than one effort to shake drug abuse. According to a recent report by the Caron Foundation, one of the nation’s oldest addiction treatment facilities, about 90 percent of those who have been through recovery experience brief, temporary relapses, so try not to look at this as a failure, but as a part of the recovery process.Psychologist Dr. Sharon Bud says it might be best to take a deep breath before you talk to your brother. Try some positive reinforcement. Let him know how proud you are that he spent 10 months sober, and let him know that you have confidence that he can to it again. You might also tell him that temporary relapses are quite normal, and that this doesn’t mean that he will NEVER kick the habit. Urge him to hang in there.

The Caron study indicated that men suffer from relapses more frequently than women do because they are less likely to seek support during and after treatment. To make success more likely, encourage him to seek an aftercare program and/or go to a 12-step group like Cocaine Anonymous, which aims to help those who suffer from addiction stay on the path of recovery. For a listing of local chapters, you or your brother can call 1-800-347-8998 at any hour of the day or night.

Considering what a difficult–and sometimes life-long–struggle recovery can be, it’s easy to understand how frustrated, hurt and angry family members can feel, so take care of yourself, too! There are support groups for family members. Co-Anon deals specifically with those who have a family member addicted to cocaine. They have both online and face-to-face meetings. Families Anonymous is more generally geared to relatives and friends of those with drug, alcohol or behavioral problems and helps members “learn to achieve their own serenity in spite of the turmoil which surrounds them.” Sounds like it would be idea, in your case.

take care,

Posted in: Family, Help Me Heather
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