Addiction isn’t a self-contained affliction—it affects everyone close to that person. To family and friends, it causes mental anguish and financial stress. It can pose a risk to their safety. And it can damage relationships beyond repair, causing long-term intimacy and trust issues.
The dangers may be apparent to you, but addicts can’t always see the impact their behavior has on others.
As the loved one of an addict, you want to help, but you also want the help you give to be effective—you’ve probably heard the term “enabler” and wondered if the help you’re offering is actually encouraging risky, destructive behavior.
So what can you do to help? And where should you draw the line?
Listen & Learn
The first thing you can do to help a loved one struggling with addiction is to learn about substance abuse and dependency. Pick up a book and read what the experts have to say, but don’t stop there—jump on an online support group and learn from recovering addicts and their loved ones. Keep in mind that what works for some, won’t work for everyone. But by opening yourself up to the experiences of others, you broaden your perspective and arm yourself with knowledge that can help you make important decisions down the line.
Learning about addiction and how others have handled it does two important things: it can make you feel less alone, and it shows your loved one that you’re invested in their recovery.
Voice your concerns as early as possible—don’t wait for your loved one to hit rock bottom before you say anything. They might not recognize the path they’re headed down, and you can save yourself and your loved one pain and suffering by intervening early.
It’s not easy confronting someone you care about, but it’s important that they know how their behavior affects your relationship. If you’re having trouble starting that first conversation with your loved one, reach out to Prelude for help.
Offer Your Support & Love
One of the most powerful tools at your disposal is your compassion. Too often, those struggling with addiction give up on recovery thinking they’ve burnt all their bridges and that they’re all alone. Let them know you’re still there for them, and that you still care. You can do this in a number of ways:
- Visit them at a time they are likely to use (think weekends, after work, or when they have a lot of free time on their hands). Keeping them company can provide a welcome distraction from thoughts and cravings.
- If you can’t visit them, give them a call or text them a joke. You don’t have to talk about recovery—sometimes it helps just to let them know you’re thinking of them.
- Send a care package to celebrate recovery milestones—this can include puzzles, books, pictures of the family, or their favorite snack food. Be sure to include a note of support.
It’s easier to start—and stick to—a treatment when you see that others are invested in your recovery. While you can’t follow your loved one through every step of the recovery process, just knowing you’re there for them can give them the push they need to follow through on their goals.
Help Them Help Themselves
Get involved in the recovery process and start by helping your loved one find treatment—whether it’s attending a support group together, taking them to therapy, or supporting their decision to rehabilitate at a long-term facility.
Don’t Make Excuses
There are consequences to addiction, stemming from health issues to legal troubles to strained relationships. Sometimes addiction blinds people to these consequences, other times, urges are so strong that they ignore the consequences altogether. It’s frustrating to see your loved one spiral out of control, and it’s tempting to want to take the reins and try to fix their problems for them.
But assuming their responsibilities and shielding them from the consequences of their behavior won’t help them recover. In fact, it makes it easier for them to continue their destructive behaviors, and harder for them to see the extent of the damage they’re causing. It also sets you up to feel unappreciated and used. Don’t let their responsibilities become your burdens!
Pick the Right Time to Talk
Don’t attempt to argue or try to fix things while your loved one is using—wait until they’re sober to have a conversation. If your loved one is constantly using, and you can’t find a sober moment to speak with them, it might be time for professional intervention.
Don’t Send Mixed Signals
Addiction is a life-long affliction with highs and lows. Even during the highs when addictive behaviors are under control, there will always be temptation to slip and use.
It’s important that you set consistent expectations with your loved one, and that you don’t encourage a behavior one minute, then villainize it the next. If you know your loved one struggles with alcoholism, for example, it’s unfair to offer them a drink then get upset when they overindulge. Leave the alcohol out of the equation and lead by example.
Looking for more ways to offer your support to a loved one recovering from addiction? Prelude can help. Check out our online resources, or get in touch with one of our professional recovery experts. As always, our services are kept strictly confidential.