How to Help a Loved One Who Is Struggling with Addiction

Struggling With Addiction

Finding out that your loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol can be truly heart-breaking, leaving you feeling angry, hurt, and confused. While it is normal to feel overwhelmed at this moment, it is important to remember that it isn’t the end of the world, and all hope is not lost. Recovery is quite achievable if the person wants help.

If you’ve found yourself wondering what you can do to help, what you can say to them, and even where to begin, here are a few things to do and not to do that you should know to help handle a loved one’s addiction.

Let’s start with what not to do…

What Not to Do

Don’t Look Down on Them

Being upset with them is normal, but understand that addiction is a disease, and people become lost in it. No one woke up one morning and decided to become addicted to a substance. Avoid openly resenting and blaming them for their addiction, especially avoiding looking down on them for using. Your loved one needs support, not judgment.

Don’t Ignore the Problem

Don’t look down on them, but don’t go to the other end of the spectrum and ignore the problem. No one ever imagines that addiction will happen to a loved one, so it can be difficult to accept. Don’t ignore the signs of addiction, making excuses and escalating the seriousness of their situation. Trying to convince yourself that they’re going through a tough time and that they’ll snap out of it does not help.

Don’t Force Them to Quit

Tough love DOES NOT WORK. Ultimatums and forcing them into treatment might work for a little while, but ultimately, if they are not ready to get help and become sober they will go back to using as soon as they get out of treatment.

Don’t Enable Them

Watching someone’s life unravel is difficult, especially when they are someone special to you. Your first instinct is to do everything you can to help them, but there is a fine line between helping and enabling so if you are giving money, paying their bills, lying for them, bailing them out of trouble, or excusing their behavior, you are enabling them and are part of their problem.

Don’t Give Up

It will get hard. The professionals at stress how important it is to remember that recovery is a lifelong process. You might become frustrated if a loved one refuses help or if they relapse, but you mustn’t completely give up on them. If you don’t believe they can change, they won’t either and are likely to completely give up on themselves, making their battle next to impossible.

How You Can Help

Educate Yourself About Addiction

If you haven’t been directly exposed to addiction of any sort before, you may have distorted ideas about what addiction is, who it affects, and how it affects them. You must do your research so that you understand what is going on. The more informed you are about what’s going on, the more you will be able to help.

Address the Issue

Now that you know that ignoring the issue won’t make it go away you know how important confronting it is. It might be intimidating, but it is an important conversation that needs to be had. You can prepare for this conversation by speaking to a professional, speaking to your loved one when they’re sober and if you struggle with words you can write down what you want to say. Be sure to stay calm, be honest and be open. Let them know that you are there to help them get better.

Research Treatments

If they aren’t ready for help, still research treatment options. This is one way to still actively help so that when they’re ready, you are there to step in immediately.

Set Boundaries

saving your loved one struggling with addiction

Boundaries play an important role in assuring your well-being and should encourage your loved one to help. These boundaries include setting curfews, not bailing them out of legal or financial trouble, and not allowing them to drink in front of you. Once you set a boundary, you must follow through, because if there are no consequences to breaching these boundaries, your addicted loved one won’t have a reason to change. Boundaries protect you and your loved ones.

Practice Self-Care

When a loved one is struggling with some form of addiction, the last thing on your mind is likely your well-being. Whether you realize it or not you need to remember that addiction is a family disease, and your loved one’s addiction is taking a toll on you too. Be sure to take the time you need to take care of yourself. Get some exercise, eat healthy meals, read a book, spend some time outside, or in the outdoors, and do the things you enjoy.

Remember that it’s always ok for you to reach out for help. You might need help before your loved one is ready to accept help and that is fine. Get that help. The happier and healthier you are mentally the easier and more likely you are to be able to help your loved one. Counseling or support groups like AA or NA meetings are a good resource for support.

It may seem selfish, but it isn’t. You need to do these things while you wait for your loved ones to be ready and for them to deal with their struggles because the truth is that you can’t help them unless you help yourself first. So, permit yourself to reclaim your life.

Addiction is something that affects the whole family. Your loved one’s addiction is a disease and can take quite a toll on you, too. Counseling and support groups help support both you and you are addicted loved one and help guide you to make the best decisions.

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