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How to Help a Loved One with Addiction

How to Help a Loved One with Addiction

by Elliott Redwine

and Freedom Treatment Centers of California.

How to Help a Loved One with Addiction

Loving someone with a substance abuse problem is not an easy thing. Oftentimes loved ones of addicts and alcoholics find themselves hurting just as the person with the substance issues. Unless you’ve been in the same situation, it’s difficult to understand the life of someone consumed by drugs and alcohol.

Many people who struggle with addiction and alcoholism burn through their resources to support their habit. Sometimes they find themselves in various types of trouble because of it. It might be an inability to hold down a job, pay bills, or keep a place to live. Loving family members and friends understandably want to help the person out.

Eventually the loved one supporting their partner, child, family member, or friend often find they are in what is called an “enabling” position with the substance abuser and not even realize it. Also, Codependency describes a learned set of emotions and behaviors seen in people close to someone who abuses drugs or alcohol. The relationships codependents and enablers form are generally one-sided, with them being the giver and the other person being the taker.

Is this your current situation? Do you find yourself wanting to help out a son or daughter, mother or father, friend or other family member with a substance abuse problem? Have you helped them over and over but the problem seems to never go away? What is the best way to help a loved one with addiction?

Showing Empathy vs. Enabling

Offering help when someone is actively trying to get better or overcome their addiction is one thing. Repeatedly bailing your loved one out is a different story, though. This brings up the question of the difference between being empathetic and enabling their behavior and choices. Codependents are notorious for enabling the behavior of their loved one.

If they come to you every time they’re in a pinch and you get them out, you’ve crossed into the territory of enabling. They eventually learn that you will help them out whenever they find themselves in trouble. This tends to strain your relationship with them, creating a case of dependence and resentment.

Offering Support while Maintaining Boundaries

The best way to support a loved one with addiction is by learning to set and maintain boundaries. This doesn’t come naturally to people who developed codependent behaviors. Once you become used to having few to no boundaries, it’s challenging to learn how to create them again.

If you don’t start learning how to establish healthy limits for yourself, though, you’ll quickly get burnt out. You’ll become frustrated, resentful, and angry with your loved one. But no matter how justified your frustration may be, when you speak and act out of anger you tend to regret it later. It will also anger and upset the user and had them to using more drugs. Learn to create boundaries before you get to this point.

Cutting Off Funding

You might feel like you set your loved one up for failure if you refuse to help them out financially. They might be nearing eviction or in jail and needing someone to bail them out. The longer you ask, “How high?” every time they say “Jump!” the longer the problem continues. Sometimes the only way to encourage change is to cut off funding entirely until they’re ready to make a change. The user MUST hit a “bottom”. A bottom is critical. If they continued to get bailed out….there is no bottom.

Staging an Intervention

If you believe your loved one is at a point in their drinking or using where they are a danger to themselves, staging an intervention may reach them. While some choose to stage an intervention with only friends and family of the substance abuser, it’s best to include a neutral third party. There are counselors and addiction treatment professionals who specialize in holding interventions.

Gather the people closest to your loved one and bring on someone who regularly handles interventions. They can guide the session and allow everyone a chance to make themselves heard. Although it might be difficult to voice your true thoughts, especially if you’re codependent, this gives you the opportunity to say how you really feel.

Setting Up Treatment

The most common practice during an intervention is to present an ultimatum that your loved one must attend treatment or else face a decided set of consequences. Freedom Treatment Centers of California recommends that this is the best course of action.  You can either choose one beforehand and transport them right after the intervention or allow them the opportunity to choose a facility. Ultimately, the problem will continue until they make a change.

Overcoming Codependency

Just like your loved one will never recover unless they get help, you won’t be able to recover without your own plan of action either. Once your loved one is in treatment, you need to start working on yourself. Codependent behaviors are not always easy to overcome.

Finding your own counselor or therapist gives you a safe place to process your thoughts and emotions. They will give you assignments and things to practice between sessions to help you separate from your learned behaviors.

Addiction recovery is a process that involves the entire family, especially those with codependent tendencies. The road to recovery isn’t easy but when everyone does their part to heal, the outcome is worth it every time.