5 Things You Can Do to Support a Loved One with Addiction (And 1 Thing You Can’t Do)
When someone you care about is dealing with an addiction, it can take a toll on what was once a stable and loving relationship. Addiction is a disease, and it can cause those who suffer from it to change in ways that they don’t realize are hurting people who care about them. When you are around someone who has an addiction, there are times where you may feel hopeless because you don’t know how to support them without unintentionally making things worse. You may feel like there is nothing you can do because you can’t control another person’s actions no matter how good your intentions are. There is hope for you and your loved one who is dealing with addiction, and there are several ways in which to handle the situation. But the support needs to be purposeful towards getting treatment. No one wants to see someone they love hit “rock bottom,” so it’s important to learn about ways to support someone with addiction until they can seek the help they need.
Speak From a Place of Compassion
When confronting the behavior of someone who is acting out due to their addiction, arguments and disagreements are likely to ensue. It’s difficult to sit idly by while someone you love is making decisions that are only hurting themselves and others who care about them. It’s natural to become angry at times since discussions about their behavior and resulting problems will often spark heated exchanges. When you are talking to someone who is under the influence of their addiction, approach them from a place of empathy and compassion, not from anger, even though you may be feeling angry and hurt inside. Approaching them when you are frustrated will only escalate a situation where things may be said and done that end up fueling feelings of regret. Remember, their actions and behaviors are not your fault and not your responsibility; you can only do what you can to reach out to them calmly and rationally to help them seek treatment for their disorder so they can get better.
Offer Your Support and Encouragement
Sometimes people are lost in their addiction and have no idea how much their disease is affecting those who love them. When dealing with the constant struggle to obtain and use drugs while dealing with the health and social fallout of their addiction, many people can forget that it’s also taking a toll on their family and friends. Don’t let them hit rock bottom before you address your concerns about their wellbeing. Coming from a place of worry and concern, tell them that you are afraid for their future and want to help them get treatment. Just like any other disease, the sooner addiction is treated, the better. Continue to be persistent about how strongly you feel that they should get help but avoid shaming or making them feel guilty. Addiction can foster feelings of hopelessness and helplessness l, so support and encourage them instead.
Set Them Up With a Plan
If your loved one has contemplated getting help for their addiction but doesn’t know where to turn or feels overwhelmed by the different possibilities available, help them explore their options. You can’t do the work for them, but you can help them with research. There are times where someone with addiction may feel ready but may need a supportive push. Assisting them with research about treatment options is a productive way to speak to them about getting the help they need without making them feel like they are walking the road alone. Learn about treatment options and talk through concerns they may have about how treatment and recovery can help provide a path back to a healthy and stable life.
Take Care of Yourself, Too
When you’re worried about a loved one who is struggling with an addiction, it can be easy to forget to practice self-care. Be sure you are still making time to take care of yourself not just physically, but mentally as well. There are many support groups both locally and online that you can be a part of to connect with people who are in similar situations. Sometimes it feels good to vent your frustrations and worries with people who truly understand the struggle of loving someone who is suffering from addiction. Consider seeking out professional therapy as well. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, how can you care for someone who is sick? Don’t feel selfish about looking after your own needs.
See Addiction Recovery as a Long-Term Process
If your loved one has experienced relapse or is in the beginning phases of their treatment, keep in mind that the recovery process is not short-term. There is no “cure” for addiction that can happen overnight regardless of what you may have heard. The treatment process may take months or even years before your loved one is fully ready for long-term recovery, and even then, they may experience some setbacks. This is all a normal part of the addiction recovery process so take time to educate yourself on long-term recovery, relapse and support groups that are available for both you and your loved one.
Don’t Be an Enabler
When you love someone who has an addiction you may find yourself trapped in a place where you may be making excuses for their behavior or cleaning up their messes. It’s incredibly difficult to watch someone you care for repeatedly run into problems caused by their addiction, but it’s crucial to stay away from becoming their “fall back” to depend on when things don’t go according to plan. Do not take over their responsibilities, make excuses for them or make it easier for them to continue misusing drugs. You may feel as though you are helping, but you are possibly only making it easier for them to slide further down the slippery slope of addiction. Support your loved one under the agreement that they are willing to seek help for their substance use disorder and be clear with what you are able to provide and assist them with to avoid becoming an enabler.
If you suspect your loved one is dealing with addiction or you are aware that their addiction is spiraling out of control, continue to encourage them to seek treatment at all costs. Be supportive without placing judgment or blame. Be aware that they are going to make excuses for their behavior but keep a firm bottom line and insist that they seek medical treatment for their addiction to begin the path to recovery and achieve a healthier lifestyle.
About the Author: Holly is the Digital Content Coordinator for MedMark Treatment Centers. She works to help spread awareness and end the stigma of addiction.