Keep A Positive Mindset
Its essential to try to seek the positives in the situation and celebrate the progress made. Changing addictive behavior is hard, just like making any significant change of habit. Yet its even harder than that because there are chemicals involved that interfere with their decision-making ability.
Even if they slip up, try to remain positive. Use supportive communication to explore what led to the slip-up, and then figure out how to avoid it in the future. You dont want your loved one to slide back, so encourage them to see how far theyve come already.
Rebuild Trust With Caution
This experience has taught you a lot, but you have to learn how to trust again. That doesnt mean that you dont use caution. You do need to use caution because you may be the only person able to detect a relapse. Still, give your partner the benefit of the doubt.
Being married to an active substance abuser can be chaotic and stressful, but with timely intervention and effective treatment there is hope and recovery for you all.
Codependency Keeps The Addict Sick
The issue of enabling is a symptom of a bigger issue: codependency. Codependency is the term used to describe the highly dependent relationship between two people. The hallmark of codependency is when the actions of one person enable, support, or perpetuate the destructive, irresponsible behavior of the other.
At first, codependency masquerades as being helpful. No one wants to see their loved one in pain. Your actions are intended to help your loved one to avoid hurting themselves or others. This could be something like allowing your adult child to live in your home as they try to stop using substances. Maybe you cover for your inebriated spouse when their employer calls.
Codependency sets in as these behaviors shift from being a one-off or occasional thing into being the norm. The addict develops the expectation that you will cover for or save them whenever they get into a bad situation, and you step up to the plate every time.
You might think youre helping them by keeping them from falling on their face. The truth is youre only enabling their behavior and exacerbating the issue. They have no reason to stop doing what theyre doing because they know you will step in to take care of the problem every time something goes wrong.
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Don Not Let Their Addiction Struggles Take Over Your Life
Sometimes a loved ones addiction can consume your life to the point of it swallowing you and your family whole.
You can still love the addict/alcoholic in your family while at the same time caring for yourself and other family members who might be caught up in the situation as well. You do this by carrying on with your regular life, work and interests taking time to care for yourself.
Try first getting involved in free support groups like the organizations we mentioned previously . You can look into therapy. It does help to talk to someone. These things can help you get a better understanding of how to cope and protect your family. Remember, you are not responsible for their addiction. Do your best, and that is all you can do.
Begin Attending Fellowship Meetings
Beyond professional help, many people who are married to addicts ease their loneliness and sense of isolation by attending 12-Step support meetings. When you hear other people relating their stories that are so much like your own, you will be able to draw strength and inspiration from other people in your same situation. Some support groups that may be in your area are:
- Open Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings
- Celebrate Recovery
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How Can I Help My Addicted Adult Child
If you believe your adult son or daughter has a problem with addiction and are concerned that you might be enabling his or her alcohol or drug problem, here are 6 steps you can take now:
1. Open up the lines of communication
As a parent, it can be hard communicating with your son or daughter about their addiction. You may have tried in the past and been unsuccessful. You may even feel as if you are constantly pestering or nagging them to change. Try a different approach through a sit-down conversation. Before approaching your child, take some time to think about what you would like to communicate. While you shouldnt expect to convince your child to admit his or her drug problem and seek help immediately, you can open up a dialogue for future conversations. Find an appropriate time when you can both sit down and talk without interruptions. Start by telling your adult son or adult daughter that you care about them deeply and understand that addiction is a disease, not a moral failure. Communicate what you have seen and how their addiction is affecting you in a non-accusatory manner. Be specific. Let them know that you are concerned about them, but avoid being judgmental or lecturing. Ask your child questions and give them space to respond honestly. Listen and avoid condemning their responses or cutting them off. Remind your child that they are loved and you are here to offer them help for their addiction when they are ready.
2. Set boundaries and follow through
Getting Help For Addictions
Addiction is a treatable condition. Whatever the addiction, there are lots of ways you can seek help. You could see your GP for advice or contact an organisation that specialises in helping people with addictions.
You can use the following online directories to find addiction treatment services in your area:
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Dos And Donts When Your Loved One Is Struggling With Addiction
Finding out that your loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol can be heartbreaking. It can leave you feeling angry, hurt, and confused. While it is normal to feel overwhelmed right now, it is important to realize that all hope is not lost. Recovery is possible, and you can help your loved one get there.
Youre most likely wondering what you can do to help? What to say? Where to start? And while there is no set guideline as to how to handle a loved ones addiction, there are certain dos and donts that you should know.
Stop Your Enabling Behavior
Nobody wants to think that they have caused their loved ones addiction to progress even further. However, there is a fine line between being supportive and enabling their addiction. Its understandable to feel sorry for someone who is struggling with the financial consequences of addiction and decide to step in with an offer to pay a few bills. While that may make you feel good at first, it quickly becomes a problem as the addicted person begins relying on you more and more to support their habit.
If someone you care about has a substance abuse problem, one of the most important things you can do to get them to enter a rehab facility is to stop making excuses that allow them to continue using. As hard as it may be to see them struggle, you arent helping them get better by giving them money or doing their work for them. By making it difficult or impossible for them to get their hands on their substance of choice, you can often force them to begin considering getting clean.
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Stop Living In Denial
Too often, the people closest to the addict/alcoholic dont really want to admit that there is a problem. They minimize or justify destructive behaviors or ignore the evidence that is right in front of them.
Have you ever said statements like this
- Its not that bad?
- He/She likes to drink a little bit. Its no big deal?
- Theyll stop using drugs if I do this?
- She/He is just under so much stress?
Heres the uncomfortable fact if your spouse is misusing prescription medications, using illegal drugs of any sort, or drinking more than two alcoholic beverages a day, and IF that drinking/drug use is having negative consequences for them or your family, then your spouse is probably addicted.
Tips For Coping With A Loved One’s Substance Use Disorder
The pathway to healing and recovery is often a journey that can progress over multiple years. Addiction not only involves the individual suffering from the substance use disorder, but their partner, their family, and their friends as well.
When supporting a partner or family member who is in active addiction to alcohol or other drugs, its critically important that you also take care of your well-being. It is a balancing act of offering support to your partner in navigating the treatment and recovery options available, while at the same time not losing sight of what you need to be happy and healthy.
Find 8 tips below for how to balance supporting the positive health behaviors of your partner, while also taking care of yourself.
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Establish Boundaries And Stick To Them
Once you have decided that you are no longer going to take part in your loved ones drug addiction that you are no longer going to enable them because you love them, yourself, and your family too much then you have to set boundaries.
Coming to that point is probably one of the hardest things to do. Enforcing those boundaries is just as hard. First, make sure your boundaries are realistic. Are you serious about them? Are you really willing to follow through on any boundaries you set?
Next, knowing why you are settings boundaries is also important. If the boundary is set in place to protect you and your family, that is a healthier motive than using the boundary to try and control or change the behavior of the addicted family member.
Whatever boundary you set, know that your loved one may react to these boundaries in different ways, and it can be very emotional to stick to your guns.
Helping A Friend With Addiction
If you’re worried about a friend who has an addiction, you can use these tips to help him or her. For example, let your friend know that you are available to talk or offer your support. If you notice a friend backsliding, talk about it openly and ask what you can do to help.
If your friend is going back to drugs or drinking and won’t accept your help, don’t be afraid to talk to a nonthreatening, understanding adult, like your parent or school counselor. It may seem like you’re ratting your friend out, but it’s the best support you can offer.
Above all, offer a friend who’s battling an addiction lots of encouragement and praise. It may seem corny, but hearing that you care is just the kind of motivation your friend needs.
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Helping The Addict Requires Healing The Family
Youll never understand how to help an addict without enabling them until you recognize these dysfunctional dynamics. You cant help your loved one if you come to their rescue every time. It not only enables their behavior but it takes attention away from every other member of your family. Helping the addict is a process that involves your entire family, not just the person with the problem.
Every family member must be on board with learning to stop enabling the addict. Theyre not going to get well if someone continues stepping in every time the addict gets into trouble. You must make sure that each person is willing to do what it takes to recognize their enabling habits.
Sometimes this involves other members of the family seeking help, too. For example, family therapy is an important part of addiction treatment programs. It provides a space for families to talk about unspoken issues and work through these damaged dynamics. Having a therapist present as a neutral third party ensures the discussion stays on track and everyone in the session feels heard.
Recognize You Have Played A Role
The first step in getting help for someone who needs itis to recognize the role you are playing in the addiction itself. For example,have you continued to financially support a loved one who has lost their job orbecome homeless due to their addiction? Or, are you covering for behavior suchas neglected responsibilities? Understanding the part you have played in theaddiction as it developed allows you to begin establishing clear boundaries andredefining how you relate to your loved one.
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Do: Empathize And Listen Start The Conversation But Let Them Talk
Speaking directly to them should always be on a list of how to help an addict. This is a precursor to a more formal and organized intervention, which could be the next step. But talking one-on-one with a friend or loved one with an addiction problem could also start them on the road to recovery.
Ideally, a person should schedule a specific time or place to speak to their addicted loved one without telling them the reason for the meeting. They should choose a quiet, familiar place that feels safe for both parties. If the person arrives intoxicated, they should be allowed to sober themselves up or, if possible, reschedule the meeting for a different time when they will not be able to take alcohol first.
The conversation should be frank but compassionate. Explain that your worry stems from a genuine concern for their health, safety, and well-being. Tell them how their substance abuse problem has affected their relationships and their everyday lives. Avoid judgments and anger. Tell them that you are willing to help and that they can always count on your support.
If you or your loved ones want to start a conversation with someone suffering from addiction, read our new book Breaking the Cycle of Substance Abuse.
It helps you understand the nature of addiction, gives helpful tips and strategies from healthcare professionals, and shows places to start the treatment.
Taking Care Of Yourself
Your loved ones recovery from drug addiction can be a long process and the negative impact on your own health, outlook, and well-being can multiply over time. Its important you maintain a balance in your life to avoid burnout from all the stress and frustration that comes from helping someone get clean.
Find support. Expressing what youre going through can be very cathartic, so look for support from trusted friends and family, or a peer support group for family members of drug addicts. Talking to others who are facing similar challenges can help you find comfort, reassurance, and new ways of coping.
Manage stress. The stress of witnessing someone you love battle addiction can take a heavy toll. You can reduce your stress levels by eating right, exercising regularly, sleeping well, and practicing a relaxation technique such as yoga, deep breathing, or meditation. Since stress levels can escalate when quitting drugs, you can even encourage your loved one to do the same.
Helplines and support
Support for sufferers of substance use disorders
In the U.S.: Call the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-4357.
UK: Find NHS drug addictions support services or call the Frank helpline at 0800 776600.
Canada: Download the PDF Finding Quality Addiction Care from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.
Australia: Find support or call the Alcohol and Drug Foundation helpline at 1800 250 015.
Support for families and loved ones
Group and 12-step programs for your loved one
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Avoid Lecturing/guilt/intimidation As A Way Of Coping
An addiction is a disease that requires professional help, counseling, and lots of work to uncover the underlying causes of the behavior.
Complicated family relationships and issues are sometimes a factor in destructive behavior.
Making your loved one feel hurt, scared, or undermined can only aggravate the situation and cause a vicious cycle of more self-medication especially if the person is not willing to admit they have a problem yet. Drug treatment requires love, support, and empathy, but also willingness on the part of the addict/alcoholic.
What To Expect When Your Family Member Enters Treatment
Part of learning how to help an alcoholic loved one is knowing what treatments are available. Another part you may not have considered is what you can expect once they begin treatment. You may end up experiencing the gamut of emotions, all of which are normal, such as:
- Relief: You may be glad your loved one is finally getting treatment and comforted to know that your loved one is physically in a safe space.
- Anxiety: You may worry about the well-being of your loved one and whether theyre getting the help they need.
- Anger: You may feel resentment that your loved one seemingly burdened you with their disease.
- Sadness: Feeling bad for your loved one and their struggles is a sign of empathy and compassion. Sadness doesnt necessarily mean pity, either.
- Shame: You may feel either shame stemming from the guilt that you couldnt save your loved one or embarrassment at having to explain that your loved one is in Recovery.
When your loved one enters treatment, its the perfect time for you to focus more on yourself and your healing. Reach out to support groups of people who are in the same situation as you. If you find yourself blaming your loved one for their addiction and its impact on your life, speak to a therapist to work through those feelings healthily.
Eventually, you will be asked to become involved in your loved ones Recovery. Family involvement in rehabilitation has proven to be incredibly beneficial for both the patient as well as the family.
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