If you love someone with an addiction, you’ll probably hope (at least once) that things will magically get better on their own. But things will not get better just by wishful thinking. Accepting and learning how to deal with the reality that you’re loved one is an addict who needs help is the first step in your personal healing.
Addiction and Your Relationship
Addictive behaviors can include a variety of vices, including alcohol, eating disorders, compulsive shopping, cigarettes, gambling, and drugs. Drugs addictions have a whole other subset, including cocaine addiction, heroin addiction, meth addiction, and more. If you love an addict who isn’t seeking help, eventually, his or her addiction will start to jeopardize your life. You may suffer from the constant worry about your loved one’s safety. You may find yourself in financial trouble because you keep lending your loved one money. You may be missing out on other healthy relationships because you’re consumed by helping your loved one.
Discovering how to love an addict is important. There are effective ways of dealing with your loved one, and there are things that can actually make the situation worse. You must set and maintain appropriate boundaries and learn assertiveness techniques. There’s a difference between helping and enabling. Sometimes you may think you’re helping, when in reality you’re enabling. Perhaps you fear that if you don’t provide help, your loved one will end up in a worse predicament. However, when you lend money, provide shelter, buy food, and act as a chauffeur, you are enabling the other person.
Helping the Addict
Hold your loved one accountable. Tell him or her that you will no longer listen to complaints about their life, nor will you provide money, food, etc. However, you can say that you’re more than willing to be there when he or she is ready to work on resolving problems through professional care and treatment.
Don’t give in to manipulation. If an addict is not ready to change, he or she will become a master manipulator to find ways to keep the addiction going. “Their fear of stopping is so great that they will do just about anything to keep from having to be honest with themselves,” warns Candace Plattor, a clinical counselor. An addict may lie, cheat, blame, guilt-trip, or feel rage toward others. Additionally, the addict will feel depressed or develop other emotional illnesses.
The more you allow the addict to manipulate you, the more manipulative the addict will try to be. However, if you hold your ground, your loved will eventually realize that you won’t give in and that your answer is “no.” Saying “no” is an important step toward change for you and for your loved one.
Remember that you cannot fix your loved one or the addiction. The only person you have control over is yourself. Stop blaming your loved one for all of your struggles and suffering. Consider that you may be contributing to the situation, especially if you’re enabling the addict. This isn’t to say your loved one hasn’t created issues for you, but that you have control over how far you allow their issues to affect your life.
Consider how your life could improve if you weren’t consumed by your loved one and his or her addiction. Answer honestly, and be aware that you may realize the healthiest and best decision for you is to change your behavior across the board. Just like in saying no and taking a stand, you might need to spend less time with your loved one, or find other outlets that can benefit you in the long run. Whether it’s exercise, a reading club, or taking classes, it’s important to find something else that allows you to focus your attention in a healthy way.
Caring for yourself is of the utmost importance. Self-care generally involves diet, exercise, and sleep, but it’s also more holistic than that. Self-care also refers to mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. When you love an addict, it’s these needs that require particular attention. Quite often, counseling is one of the best ways to help navigate the world of loving an addict. A counselor can give you the necessary skills to manage your emotions and reactions, which can even benefit you in other aspects of your life.
When you love someone who has an addiction, it’s easy to get lost in their world of suffering.
But through persistence, behavioral changes, and self-care, you can find a productive way to care for your loved and take care of yourself without being consumed.
Photo Credit: 4665562, Pixabay
About the Author
Caleb Anderson is in recovery from an opiate addiction. He hopes sharing his experiences will help others. He co-created RecoveryHope with his wife, Molly, to help people with substance abuse disorders and their families. After Caleb was admitted to treatment for opiate addiction, Molly made it her mission to learn more about how to help him fight his battles and support him in his recovery. Together they now help other couples and individuals by providing research and resources regarding the many challenges of overcoming drug and alcohol addictions.