Watching a person you love struggle with addiction is challenging, frustrating and often painful. It may leave you feeling underappreciated, taken for granted and helpless. You might also be unsure of how to help or support your loved one in a healthy way.
The hard truth is, unfortunately, you can’t force someone to get help. And until your loved one is ready to admit they have a problem, it may be very difficult to watch.
A person struggling with addiction may not be ready to seek help and is often in denial about their substance abuse. While you can’t make the decision for your loved one, you can still be supportive as they reach for recovery.
Here’s what you should know about supporting an addicted loved one:
1. Educate Yourself About Addiction
One of the best things you can do is learn about addiction. Many people think of addiction as a moral failing, but it’s actually a disease of the brain. Once someone becomes dependent, the chemical makeup of the brain changes and addiction takes over.
Addiction is often a co-occurring disorder, too. That means your loved one may also be struggling with mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Understanding the nature of the beast can help you realize your loved one is not necessarily choosing his addiction.
Just remember, it’s important to support your loved one without enabling their addiction. Refrain from enabling behaviors, like helping your loved one get drugs, loaning him money or paying his bills.
2. Know How to Speak With Someone in Active Addiction
Knowing the right conversations to have — including what to say and what not to say — can be pivotal. Obviously, addiction is a hard thing to talk about. Here are few pointers on how to communicate with your loved one:
- Remain calm and collected.
- Honestly express your love, concern, and care for their life.
- Be authentic and open, while also conveying that you’re serious about getting them help.
- Share your desire to be supportive, and demonstrate you’ve educated yourself.
- Don’t be forceful or shame/guilt your loved one about their habits.
- Be prepared for denial or negative responses.
- Avoid threatening or demoralizing your loved one.
3. Understand That Addiction Is a Family Affair
Living or interacting with someone who’s dealing with an addiction is no easy feat. Everyone around an addicted loved one suffers in their own way. Educating yourself and being patient, compassionate and as loving as possible can go a long way in helping you navigate tough moments.
When your loved one is ready for help, knowing what treatment options are available, how insurance works and what detox or withdrawal symptoms are like will come in handy. Keep in mind that intervention is always a viable option if the circumstances become life-threatening.
4. Maintain Boundaries and Have Your Own Support System
Dealing with someone who’s addicted to drugs or alcohol can be emotionally and mentally taxing. That’s why it’s important for you to have people you can lean on, too, and to know what healthy boundaries you can put in place to stay grounded.
Joining a support group such as Al-Anon or a 12-Step program for family members affected by addiction is a great way to help you feel supported on your own path.
5. Learn How to Support Your Loved One After Treatment
Ideally, the goal in supporting an addicted loved one is to get them into treatment. However, addiction recovery goes way beyond detox or treatment.
Helping your loved one integrate back into their life after treatment is crucial to sustaining his recovery. Be willing to attend meetings with them, and provide a supportive environment free of triggers, stress or substances as they learn how to return to their life.
About Carly Benson
Carly is a writer for Skywood Recovery. As an avid traveler, yogi & confessed self-help junkie, she also writes about her adventures in life & sobriety on www.MiraclesAreBrewing.com, where she offers inspirational concepts & coaching for recovery, faith & living an intentional life.