How You Can Help An Addicted Loved One
There are many people across the nation concerned about their loved ones drinking or drugging behavior. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs like pain pills or Xanax, or illegal drugs like cocaine or heroin, they’re just not sure what to do to help their loved one break free from the addiction.
When we love someone, we do all that we can to help them when they’re struggling. Those that struggle with alcoholism or drug addiction might not even think they need help. They might think that they’re doing just fine and that you’re overreacting. They may be in complete denial about their substance abuse. However, we see them swimming in pain and caught in the grip of addiction and have probably had a conversation or two with them about it.
But what do you do when those conversations don’t result in any changes? When your boyfriend is getting drunk almost every night or your wife is still using heroin weekly. Or maybe even when your teenager is smoking marijuana all the time. What do you do, as your concerns don’t really matter to them?
This is the tricky part that comes to an addicted loved one, as there’s no one size fits all approach when it comes to addressing the issue. Each situation and each person will be different, and will require different solutions.
The following are some insights and tips for you if you have an addicted loved one who is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction.
If you’ve had multiple conversations, back off
If you’ve sat down with your addicted loved one and had multiple conversations about his or her substance abuse issues, and they have not been receptive to your conversation, it may be time to back off for now. Badgering someone about their addictive behaviors will usually only promote distance between you two if he or she refuses to believe there’s a problem or just simply isn’t ready to stop abusing substances. In this case, it’s best if you back off for a while. Now, this may be challenging, but it’s necessary for your sanity.
Enabling means that you say or do things for your addicted loved one that promotes or encourages continued substance abuse. Enabling behaviors involve giving the addict money when he is responsible for his own income, given the addict rides to places where he will engage in addictive behavior, making excuses for the addict or alcoholic, calling in sick for him when he is hungover, letting your loved one love with you when he is clearly not willing to help you with and is just continuing to party, and so on.
One of the best things you can do for an addicted loved one is to stop enabling. The addict must have consequences for his or her behavior. If he has no money for food or rent because he’s spending it all on alcohol or drugs, don’t come to the rescue. Let him go hungry or not have a place to live, because only then will he realize that his addiction is causing him negative consequences. When you come to the rescue, you are only feeding the addict positive reinforcement for negative behavior, so set some clear boundaries and commit to no more enabling.
Get really good at setting and keeping boundaries
Now that you are not going to enable the addicted loved one anymore, get really good at setting and keeping boundaries. For example, if your husband can’t hold a job because of his addiction, yet relies on you to pay the bills, it’s time to sit down with him and set some firm boundaries. It’s time to tell him that you’re not going to flip his bill anymore. If he wants to stay with you in your home, he must go out and get a job and pay at least half of all of the bills. It is important that you set and keep this type of boundary, because many addicts will tend to try to swindle their way out of having to be responsible. Don’t fall for his or her excuses. Simply get really good at setting and keeping boundaries. This is stepping up in your own power, letting the addict know that he must hold his weight and be responsible.
Get yourself some support
It’s really easy to spend your days and nights worrying about your addicted loved one. We want our loved ones to be alright and knowing that they are knee-deep in addiction causes us to worry. We love to be able to rescue them or fix their problems, but the reality is that no one can fix an addiction except the addict himself. You did not cause the addiction, you cannot control it, and you cannot cure it. The sooner you realize this, the faster you’ll begin to experience peace of mind.
If you’re really struggling emotionally, know that there are some wonderful support groups that help loved ones of addicts focus on themselves and creating a good life for them, despite a loved one’s addiction. If you are not sure how to set a boundary or stop enabling, or stop worrying, attend a support group such as Al-Anon, Nar-anon, or Codependents Anonymous. There you will be in a group with other loved ones of addicts who can encourage, strengthen, and give you hope. You’ll be able to get a sponsor who acts as a mentor to help you through this time of life. He or she will be able to share experiences and can help you work through the 12 steps of the program, which can help you take your eyes off of addict and other people, and focus on yourself. You deserve to be happy and live a peaceful life despite whatever is going on in someone else’s life.
There are meetings in many cities across the nation. There are even some online meetings. Check out their websites and see if there’s a meeting near you, as even one meeting a week can be helpful.
Learn about addiction
It will serve you well to learn as much as you can about the disease of addiction. Understand that your addicted loved one is not the addiction, and the addiction is not your loved one. Remember your loved before the addiction, as an addiction can cause a person to become someone they’re not. Many addicts go around lying, deceiving, and taking advantage of others. It’s really easy to get frustrated with an addict, but remember that those behaviors stem from the monster of addiction working. The more you can learn about addiction, the better you’ll understand what’s going on in that person’s life, and the more likely you’ll be able to offer unconditional love despite their lack of effort at recovery or behaviors that are sketchy.
See a counselor
You may be in a situation where your partner is an alcoholic or addict and is not willing to get on the path to recovery. You may be faced with a decision of whether to stay or leave the relationship. That kind of situation can be quite scary and you’re not sure you can leave someone you love. At the same time, you don’t want to live in a chaotic environment with an active addict who isn’t willing to reach out for help her treatment. In this case, it can prove quite valuable to see a professional counselor, as it can be helpful to talk about the situation, perhaps discussing the pros and cons of leaving. It will also be helpful to have the support in case you do leave. In addition to seeing a counselor, you have the option of attending a 12-step support group as well for extra support.
Will an addict reach out for help?
We always hope that an addicted loved one will reach their breaking point where they reach out for help for treatment. In the meantime, there are certainly things that we can do to bring more peace into our lives, and go on with our lives. We do not have to let someone else’s addiction completely destroy our emotional well-being. It will take some effort, and usually a pretty good support system, but it’s well worth the effort.
Your loved one is struggling with the disease of addiction or alcoholism and that does not reflect who you are as a person. Whether it’s your partner, child, friend, or family member, your life matters too, and you don’t have to go crazy trying to figure out how to help your loved one. Do what you know to do and then go on to take care of you and your well-being.
This can be an opportunity for you to learn valuable life lessons about yourself, addiction, and others. Watch out for co-dependency, because it may try to creep into your relationship. This means that the two of you are overly dependent on each other. And, as you know, when you rely too much on an addict, you can really begin to suffer emotionally.
We hope these tips have helped you in learning how you can take care of yourself and be a great support to your loved one who has an addiction. It is our hope that your loved one will get to the point where he or she will reach out for help, whether it’s a substance abuse professional, alcohol or drug rehab, or a support group meeting. You, and your loved one, deserve a wonderful life filled with hope, peace, and joy.