Addictions and the family environment: interview with Dr. Eduardo Ramadas
We interviewed Dr. Eduardo Ramadas da Silva, founder of VillaRamadas therapeutic center.
Addictions are much more than an interaction of chemicals in the brain. Beyond the molecular scale, the scale of human interactions also plays a very important role in the appearance and maintenance of addictive processes... and also influences the overcoming of these health problems.
To discuss this topic we interviewed an expert in addictions, Dr. Eduardo Ramadas da Silvawho is in charge of the international therapeutic center VillaRamadas.
Interview with Dr. Eduardo Ramadas: the relationship between addiction and the family environment.
Dr. Eduardo Ramadas Da Silva is CEO and founder of the VillaRamadas addiction treatment center. He is the creator of the Change & Grow therapeutic model, and has been helping patients with different problems of impulse and emotion regulation for more than 20 years. On this occasion, he talks to us about the link between the family context and addiction.
What are the first signs that usually indicate that a family member is developing an addiction?
Addiction can be translated into the attention, time and dedication that an individual invests in a certain substance or activity in his or her life to the detriment of other areas of his or her life (family, work, social context). From the moment that one or more areas of an individual's life are neglected and, consequently, are affected in a negative way, we can face the first signs of an addiction.
We can identify as signs of a possible addiction certain behaviors, physical signs or changes in the way of being and being of an individual, such as tiredness, fatigue, tremors, sweating, nausea, neglect in terms of care and hygiene habits, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, mood swings, anxiety, irritability, impulsivity, low tolerance to frustration, lying and omission to obtain it, etc.
Is it common for the addicted person's family members to have the problem that the addicted person does not recognize that he/she has a problem?
Yes, since the recognition and consequent acceptance of addiction as a disease can be a complex, slow and painful process that occurs after an individual goes through certain phases, one of which is denial.
At this stage of the process, the individual denies having a problem, as he or she believes to be in total control of his or her addictive pattern, believing that all the conditions have been met to stop using when desired, defending that these behaviors are due only to controllable desires and not to a need resulting from the obsessive repetition of habits.
What can these relatives do to encourage their loved one to assume that action must be taken as soon as possible? There is a risk of confrontation.
Most families are not prepared and do not have the necessary knowledge to deal with addiction. Therefore, the first step is to seek information and case-specific help.
However, there are ways that the family can take to increase their loved one's awareness of the addiction problem, i.e., through communication with him or her. It is important to offer help and try to understand, support and bear, showing the addict that he/she is not alone and that the family is willing and committed to finding solutions.
It is essential that the family accept the addiction as a disease, show empathy, respect and interest in helping the individual. If possible, reflection on the pros and cons of the addictive behavior can make the individual become aware of it and lead him to question the need to change the behavior pattern, making him define goals for himself and for his future life, i.e., seek professional and specialized help.
However, it is important that the family does not become complacent with the individual and is able to set their limits and be assertive with themselves, without taking full responsibility for themselves and their illness and not giving in to lies and manipulations, making them responsible for their decisions and behaviors.
And once the person has been convinced that what is happening to him/her is an addiction, how does one move from ideas to facts? Is it important to guide the family member in the process of finding out about available therapies, choosing the clinic to go to and making an appointment, or is it better not to be so close to him/her?
Continuing with the previous question, it is important for the family to encourage the individual to reflect on the consequences of his or her pattern of addictive behavior and to demonstrate their availability, support and commitment in the search for help and solutions.
It is important that the family does not assume full responsibility for seeking help, but rather encourages and supports the individual, and together they can seek different possibilities of professional and specialized support, taking into consideration the individual's will and the stage of addiction in which he/she finds him/herself.
As I mentioned earlier, it is essential that the individual assumes his or her responsibilities, which does not prevent the family from being part of the process of seeking and exploring specialized treatment options.
Once therapy has begun, how can family members help the patient meet his or her goals for improvement?
It is important that, whenever possible, the family accompanies the patient in his or her process and keeps informed of his or her evolution, maintaining contact with the family member and with the professional team that accompanies him or her. In this way, the family can learn about the needs of the individual and the position and contribution it can and should adopt with him or her.
In addition, and if possible, the family will benefit if they are accompanied by professionals or if they join support groups, such as support meetings for family members of addicts, where they can share difficulties, ask for help and receive identification and possible suggestions.
Regarding the relationship with the addicted family member, it is important that the family adopts an open-minded and accepting posture, showing empathy and willingness to support and help the addict, maintaining an assertive posture and promoting the autonomy of the family member, it is about sharing thoughts and feelings and asking for help.
And if in the process that person deludes himself with excuses so that he can relapse again and again believing that he is doing well, what is recommended to do?
Relapse can be part of a recovery process, but it does not imply a complete reversal of the process. As mentioned above, the family is not entirely responsible for the addict's recovery process, nor should the family be blamed if a relapse occurs.
The family can take an active role in the addict's recovery process by being alert to the signs of relapse, being open-minded to listen and being available to help and support the addict, but not taking responsibility for the individual's decisions and behaviors.
Therefore, the family can adopt a posture of acceptance and proactivity in helping the individual, as long as the individual is able to share and ask for help. However, it is also up to the family not to be complacent and not to allow itself to be manipulated by the individual, being attentive to the signs of possible manipulation.
It is important that the family itself establishes its limits and imposes itself in the relationship with the individual, promoting a reflection on the consequences of addiction not only for the individual but also for the family dynamics.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)