Struggling with an addiction is hard, both for the addict and for those who love them. For family and loved ones of addicts, knowing how to help them recover can be especially challenging, particularly when their negative behavior impacts the lives of those who try to help. Recovery is a goal worth pursuing nonetheless, so here are five ways you can support someone you love as they begin or continue on the road to change.
Know Your Enemy
The first step in the fight against addiction is to recognize what you’re fighting against. The addict is not the enemy, the addiction is. Fighting with the addict in an effort to force or encourage sobriety only engenders hostility. Understand that in a majority of cases, the addict wants to heal as badly as you want them to—it’s just not a journey that can be easily completed alone.
Take the time to learn about addictions—what causes them, what fuels them, and what can be done to stop them. In all your efforts, never let your loved one feel like you’re struggling against them rather than on their behalf.
If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you’re familiar with the instruction, in the event of a loss of cabin pressure, to “secure your own air mask before assisting anyone else.” The same principle applies to supporting a struggling addict. “You cannot serve from an empty vessel,” Eleanor Brownn once wrote. Helping an addict is mentally, emotionally, and physically taxing, so set aside time to recharge yourself on a regular basis. If you are refreshing yourself consistently, you will be better prepared for the long journey ahead.
Don’t Set the Bar Too High…
And a long journey it is. The journey to recovery is much more marathon than it is a sprint, and there is tripping and stumbling that will happen along the course. Don’t expect the change to happen too quickly, and try to bridle your frustration when there are hiccups. Your continued faith that they can change will be far more valuable than any scolding or lecture.
…But Be Firm in Your Expectations
That said, enabling their addiction can be as bad as (or worse than) drowning them in your displeasure. Your loved one needs to know that there are consequences to their actions and that without change, they and everyone near them will continue to hurt. Set clear boundaries to keep you (and those in your care) from severe harm, but will allow you to continue showing your love and support. If they cross the line, do what’s necessary to protect yourself (including giving yourself some space, if you need it). Don’t let them think that their behavior is ok when it’s causing harm to them, and you.
Don’t Give Up on Them
Lastly, even if you have to hold them at arm’s length for a time, don’t let them feel forgotten. Addicts who seek recovery often doubt their ability to regain their freedom, and to repair all the damage they’ve done. In these moments where they hate themselves more than anyone else could, be brave enough to have faith in them and their future. There’s a world of potential in them that they don’t see, and they may give up—or worse—if there’s no one around to show it to them.
Overcoming addiction isn’t easy, but it is possible. Our clinical staff is specially trained to help addicts reclaim their freedom and take back control of their lives. Contact us today to learn more about how to make recovery possible.