Living with or loving (or both) someone who struggles with addiction can be very challenging, particularly for those who don’t understand addiction. For starters, you’re watching someone that you care about cause mental and physical harm to themselves. But, another thing that’s quite easy to brush aside is the fact that it puts enormous strain on you as well. And, while you may sometimes feel like you don’t deserve to give yourself some TLC while cleaning up the mess your addicted loved one leaves in their wake, you’re of no use to anyone if you don’t. And, you MORE than deserve it. You owe it to yourself.
So, first things first—when you’re about to dive head-first into addressing the elephant in the room (that it’s time for your loved one to get help) start practicing some self-care, too. Get enough rest, seek out professional help for yourself in the form of things like therapy, exercise, eating well, meditating—just do everything you need to do to stay centered. By taking care of yourself first, you’ll be much more equipped to handle everything else.
And, for when you’re finally ready to face the situation, we’ve compiled a list of things that can help you best handle the situation.
- The talk. Okay, so you’ve brushed things under the rug for a while now. This is normal for so many people who are involved with an addict but continuing to ignore the issue isn’t going to change anything. Sooner or later, it’s a conversation that must be addressed, and here are some helpful recommendations to get you through when you decide to pull the trigger:
- First, make sure they’re sober when you have the talk.
- Reach out to professionals or other addicts in recovery if you know any. Ask them for tips on how to address the issue. This can be particularly helpful if they know your addicted loved one, as they’ll have an outside perspective that’s likely to be different from your own if you’re emotionally attached to the subject.
- Stay calm and avoid accusatory language. Remember, those of us who struggle with addiction don’t choose to be this way.
- Make sure they know you’re there to help and not to try and force them to do anything they don’t want to do. Listen to what they have to say as well. You may not agree with whatever it is, but try to be an open channel and keep an open mind.
- Don’t force treatment or rehab on them immediately. Wait until you feel like they’re ready to hear it. This might not happen the first time you talk. Hopefully, however, they’ll eventually come around. If they don’t, give yourself a time limit for how long you’re willing to put up with it. An ultimatum might be your very last resort, but remember that you have a life to live of your own. If your addicted loved one is impeding your ability to progress in life, then it might be your only choice. Just be prepared. Once again, hopefully it never comes to this.
- Create boundaries. Setting boundaries can feel a bit harsh sometimes, and you’re likely to face some backlash, but it’s wise to stick to your guns when dealing with an addict. If you don’t, they’re not likely to ever change because they’ll have no motivation to do so.
- Choose boundaries you’re comfortable with, whether this means setting a curfew, not helping them out financially (or legally if these types of issues arise). Each individual situation is going to be different, so determine what you do and don’t feel comfortable with at home and go from there.
- Stick to the consequences you set to show that you’re serious. This will mean the addicted one isn’t able to get away with bad behavior in your presence anymore. Ultimately, he or she will likely need to make some changes to avoid their circumstances becoming extremely uncomfortable, if not unbearable.
- Educate yourself on the problem and research treatment plans.
- First, know what you’re dealing with. Many people think they understand addiction, but if you, yourself, have never been addicted to drugs or alcohol then you probably have no idea what you’re up against. And that’s okay. Your loved one isn’t the first addict to walk the earth and they certainly won’t be the last. The percentage of people in the world who battle addiction is probably higher than you think and there are plenty of resources out there. Use them. Here are a few: AA, NA, Movement of Recovery.
- Get outside help if you’re not filled with confidence regarding your knowledge of addiction. This can also take some of the pressure off. Talk to specialists and counselors if need be so that when you bring up the conversation, you’re armed with real knowledge.
- Don’t force. If there’s one thing just about any addict or alcoholic hates more than anything, it’s being told what to do.
- There’s a difference between setting boundaries and forcing ultimatums on someone. Stick to your boundaries, but try to avoid statements like, “it’s either your drugs, or your alcohol, or else…” Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with a die-hard addict, there’s not much in the world that’s more important to them than their drugs or their alcohol when they’re in active addiction. Please remember, however, that this is just their “disease” essentially doing the thinking for them. So, with this in mind, apply a firm approach, try to keep an open and understanding mind, and avoid forcing.
- By setting firm boundaries while keeping communication open, you’re giving the addict the opportunity to come to you if and when he or she is ready. This is generally the only way that will work over the long term.
- Don’t enable them.
- Try not to give them money when they’re in active addiction, don’t lie to get them out of legal trouble, and definitely don’t give them drugs or alcohol. Addicts can be very persuasive when they’re after something, but giving in to their requests or demands will only exacerbate the problem if these requests or demands help them to keep getting drunk or high.
- Also, if you think they have a problem but you tell them otherwise to keep the peace, you’re enabling them. Speak your truth, even if they don’t want to hear it.
- Seek out treatment options. If the alcoholic or drug addict’s toxicity levels are extremely high, the very first treatment option (if and when they agree they’re ready to go through with it) may be a detox treatment center. If they don’t need to detox or they’ve completed detox, there are numerous treatment options available.
- Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centers. A good rehab not only provides respite from everyday triggers for the addict or alcoholic, but it generally includes a sustainable blueprint for life. This blueprint is geared toward keeping them sober over the long term, even after they’ve left treatment. Kemabli Recovery Center’s blueprint, for example, includes an approach based on something called the bio-social-spiritual model. This model encourages a balanced approach to life and focuses on a combination of six root causes of addiction, including the physical, emotional, occupational, intellectual, social, and spiritual approaches. Learn more about it here.
- Twelve-step programs. While detox and rehab are often essential in early recovery, twelve-step programs like AA, NA, AAA (All Addicts Anonymous), and Al-anon are all enormously beneficial to long-term recovery. Many will argue that these programs are essential. They keep us accountable, give us steps that help keep us sober, and they provide a lifeline in the form of a global network of people in recovery with the primary collective purpose of helping others in recovery.
If you start to notice signs of addiction in a loved one, stay calm. Do your best to help them understand they have a problem while simultaneously educating yourself on addiction. And, most importantly, don’t give up on them. With the right approach, it’s almost always possible to help an addict. While it might be necessary for them to hit an emotional bottom before they’re ready to get help, you can be there for them when that time comes. And, you’ll be armed with knowledge which, as we all know, is power.
Kembali Recovery Center can help.
If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction or other compulsive behaviors, help is just a phone call or an email away. Contact us today to speak with one of our counselors and learn about our different programs and treatment options. You never have to do this alone.