Watching a person you love struggle with addiction is challenging, frustrating and often painful. It may leave you feeling underappreciated, taken for granted and helpless. You might also be unsure about how to help your loved one or support her in a healthy way.
The hard truth is, unfortunately, you can’t force someone to get help. And until your loved one is ready to admit she has a problem, it may be very difficult to watch.
A person struggling with addiction may not be ready to seek help and is often in denial about her substance abuse. While you can’t make the decision for her, you can be still be supportive as she reaches for recovery.
Here’s what you should know in supporting an addicted loved one:
- Educate Yourself About Addiction
One of the best things you can do is to learn about addiction. Many people think of addiction as a moral failing, but it’s actually a disease of the brain. Once someone becomes dependent, the chemical makeup in the brain changes, and addiction takes over.
Addiction is often a co-occurring disorder, too. That means your loved one may also be struggling with mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Understanding the nature of the beast can help you realize your loved one is not necessarily choosing his addiction.
“I hope if you are a family member or friend supporting someone in recovery, you will do everything you can to educate yourself about the disease of addiction, because with knowledge there is power. Once you understand the limits you have over this disease, you will be able to focus on your own recovery and leave your family member’s recovery up to him and his higher power.” – Joe shares on Heroes in Recovery.
Just remember, it’s important to support your loved one without enabling his addiction. Refrain from enabling behaviors, like helping your loved one get drugs, loaning him money or paying his bills.
- Know How to Speak With Someone in Active Addiction
Knowing the right conversations to have — including what to say and what not to say — can be pivotal. Obviously, addiction is a hard thing to talk about. Here are few pointers on how to dialogue with your loved one:
- Remain calm and collected.
- Honestly express your love, concern and care for her life.
- Be authentic and open, while also conveying that you’re serious about getting her help.
- Share your desire to be supportive, and demonstrate you’ve educated yourself.
- Don’t be forceful or shame/guilt your loved one about her habits.
- Be prepared for denial or negative responses.
- Avoid threatening or demoralizing your loved one.
- Understand That Addiction Is a Family Affair
Living or interacting with someone who’s dealing with an addiction is no easy feat. Everyone around an addicted loved one suffers in their own way. Educating yourself and being patient, compassionate and as loving as possible can go a long way in helping you navigate tough moments.