When you love somebody with an addiction, you may wonder how you can help. Recovery, just like life, has its ups and downs. However, when you’re recovering from a substance abuse disorder, the first few years can be incredibly difficult.
The desire to use – drugs, or alcohol – can be very strong to the point it overwhelms. You may worry that your loved one seems to obsess about their drug of choice. Because this is “normal” behavior for a person who is addicted, they may not even realize that they’re participating in these behaviors. These urges are often uncontrollable in early recovery.
As a bystander, you can’t change how anyone feels. You can’t stop them from making a wrong choice, and they may do so even if they’re recovering. So how can you help your loved one without enabling them? Here are four guidelines to use when trying to assist them:
1. Have an “open door” policy. It’s not your job to police your loved one, confront them when they “slip” or try to yell or guilt them into submission. Addiction often has control of the person, and even though they may say they want to do something, such as get into rehab, they may make a different choice. Let them know you are always willing to talk to them and try to do so without judgment. You can recommend solutions without trying to force them into anything, and let them know you love them and want them to get better. Yelling, arguing, etc. can drive them further away. You can’t control them or their addiction, but you can choose how to respond. (Therapy or Al-Anon, a support group for families of people who are addicted to alcohol/drugs, may help with this.)
2. Set boundaries. Boundaries are a key part of healthy relationships, and although you may not have stood firm in the past, you have the power to find and set your limits. “You can’t come over when you’ve been using” is one boundary some family members use when dealing with addicted loved ones. “We can’t stay in this relationship if you’re using” is another – but you must stick with it and apply it. Don’t make ultamatums or set boundaries that you know you won’t keep. Boundaries are healthy for you to keep your peace of mind.
3. Get your own support. Al-Anon was mentioned earlier, and that is not the only support group for families of addicted individuals. You may want to seek therapy as a family or for yourself as an individual. If you know other people in recovery, you may want to get recommendations from them, as well. Learn how to take time for yourself every day, and learn how to do self-care to calm your mind and spirit. You are recovering, too!
4. It’s not your fault. Know that there is nothing you can change that will make a person stop drinking or using drugs – it’s not about you. Loving a person with a substance abuse disorder can be painful or overwhelming. They may say or do hurtful things or even blame you for their addiction. That’s the addiction talking, and it is always wrong. Addicts use because they’re addicted. You can’t fix things, but (see #3) you can do things to help take care of yourself, and be willing to talk and help when they are ready.
Addiction can strike almost anyone from any background, and although there is stigma often attached to it, the world is starting to accept addiction as a disease. There is a lot of help ready for your loved one when they seek treatment. When you’re ready to get it, please give us a call at (877)228-2401 to speak with a trained admissions counselor confidentially. Recovery is possible!