Those who know a loved one in the throes of addiction understand just how difficult it is to know the right thing to do. It is almost impossible to see someone you love hurt themselves and not intervene. On the other hand, encouraging the behavior through codependency or enablement is also not helpful. The pain that the addict puts a loved one through can be excruciating, but cutting them out of your life can even be harder. Navigating these tough waters is a challenge – and there is no one right or wrong way to go about it. However, there are a few simple suggestions that experts and psychologists consider when helping someone who has a loved one in addiction. Here are some top tips.
1. Get Educated
It’s hard to know how to help the addict if you don’t understand the nature of addiction. Now understanding addiction can lead to hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and further resentment. Knowing how the brain is impacted by addiction, along with the side effects of suffering from addiction can help you understand the addict and prepare ahead. There are plenty of resources to find information - from the library to the internet, to psychologists, to support groups like AA.
2. Find Support
Dealing with someone who struggles with addiction is emotionally, spiritually, and financially draining. It can fracture the strongest of relationships and cause unnecessary tension in the home. This can lead to depression, anxiety, resentment, and financial hardship. Getting support for the ups and downs of addiction is a must. Therapists can also provide some proven coping mechanisms that will help you handle the stress and still find joy in these trying times. Teletherapy at Straight Talk Counseling or other centers is an option. There are also therapy services free of charge or at low cost at local churches if money is a concern.
3. Stop Enabling
It is very, very hard not to enable someone who is struggling with addiction. The individual may ask for money, a place to sleep, a drive to get drugs, and more. You may find yourself in situations you never would have dreamed of, doing things you never thought you partake in. Don’t allow an addict to dictate what you feel comfortable doing or not doing. Enabling does not help yourself – or the addict. It only continues to justify their behavior and eliminate any accountability that may help them get clean. It also makes you resent the addict and fall further into depression and anxiety, particularly if there is a relapse.
4. Understand the Odds
Addicts get better all of the time – but some do not. The addict must want to get better. He or she must do everything in their power to get better. Even the most positive, strong-willed addict may relapse because addiction is simply that powerful. Try to be prepared for these potential relapses and continue to encourage the addict without enabling him or her. This will help prevent you from feeling letdown if something goes wrong. Finally, remember that none of this is your fault or responsibility. There is nothing you can do or not do, say or not say, think or not think-that will make the addict make a different decision.
5. Keep Joy in Your Life
Just because there is an addict in your life who is struggling with something quite painful doesn’t mean that you have to be miserable all of the time. It’s important to maintain some semblance of a normal, healthy, and happy life even while struggling with someone in addiction. Exercise, eat properly, get out of the house, stay busy at work, find a hobby. Do whatever you have to do to keep busy and find joy throughout your day. This will make it easier to handle the difficult times and wade through the negative experiences the addict engages in.
Do you live with someone who is an addict? Are you suffering from anxiety, depression, or resentment? If so, please Contact Straight Talk at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.