8 Tips for Families Whose Loved Ones are Facing Addiction
When your loved one has an addiction, it’s not just “their problem." Addiction affects the whole family. It creates rifts in the family that seem impossible to repair. You might be really angry, but you also worry about your loved one. You might make excuses for their behavior. You might even do things that enable their addiction. You’re trying to love them through it, but if we're honest, it can be overwhelming or exhausting.
If love was enough to heal dysfunction, there would be no need for treatment. The fact is, sometimes the love we have for someone can keep us from making the hard decisions needed to save the life of our loved ones from addiction. When someone you love has an addiction, you have to learn to love them in a way that supports recovery and not the addiction.
What do you do when your head tells you one thing, but your heart tells you something else? Here are a few ways to respond when your loved one is struggling with addiction.
Take Care of You
This is priority #1. If you’re spending all your time and energy worrying about your loved one, taking care of yourself is probably not on your to-do list. The pressures of addiction can take their toll on everyone in the family. Exhausting yourself will not change things. You owe it to yourself and those who love you to take good care of yourself. Make time to eat well, get some fresh air and exercise. If you’re struggling with what’s happening, seek out help. Talking to someone can help you sort out your feelings and find ways to cope. It’s ok to seek help even if your loved one isn’t ready.
If you’ve never had to deal with addiction before, it can be confusing. Educating yourself can be helpful and lend insight into what your loved one might be experiencing. You can also learn more about what to do to help support your loved one in their recovery. Read books and articles on topics like codependency, enabling, healthy family systems, and more. Here are some great resources to explore:
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Addiction can be isolating. This is true for your loved one with an addiction and for you. It can feel like you’re in this alone. How could anyone else even understand? Actually, there are incredible amounts of people who understand exactly what you’re going through. You just have to find them. Groups like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon are for families of people who are struggling with addiction. There you can meet other families who are dealing with their own loved one’s addiction and learn how they’re coping. Groups like this can help you to feel less alone, find encouragement and accountability, and connect with people who “get it”.
Learn to Set Healthy Boundaries with Your Loved One
This one is hard but its essential. We highly recommend connecting with a therapist, an interventionist, a support group, or all of the above in order to guide you through supporting your loved one without enabling. Setting firm boundaries is necessary to maintain your well-being but it also serves to encourage your loved one to get help. Examples of boundaries might be not giving them money – even a few dollars, not allowing alcohol or drugs in your home, or not bailing them out of jail. Boundaries force your loved one to be accountable for their choices. For boundaries to be effective, you have to say what you mean and mean what you say. If you give in, even once, it sends a powerful message that there is really no consequence and, when there are no consequences, there’s no reason to change. If setting boundaries is new for you, it can feel punitive and harsh. Again, a therapist is incredibly valuable in helping you navigate boundary setting with effectiveness and grace. Remember, you are setting them to protect yourself and to hold your loved one accountable.
Love the Person, Fight the Addiction
In the chaos that is a loved one's addiction, it is easy to lose sight of the person. It’s easy to fall into judgment, criticism, and even anger. As your loved one battles addiction, it's essential for you to remember that they are not their addiction. Addiction is a disease that changes the way the brain functions, impairs decision-making, and drives the person to continue using. The person you know and love is still there. Do all you can to fight the addiction with the support of professionals but remember to extend compassion and grace to your loved one. When they say, “I can’t stop by myself”, they are being honest with you. Remember their story, not just their behaviors.
Support Their Recovery, Not Their Habit
The goal is to get your loved one to treatment. Every step you take should be with recovery in mind. This means helping them see a clear path to treatment and recovery. It also means not doing things that enable them to remain in their addiction. It’s hard to stand by and watch someone’s life come apart. However, bailing them out, making life easier doesn’t move them closer to sobriety. It might make you feel better, but it might also keep them stuck. Before you act, ask yourself if what you’re about to do is helping or enabling. Seek the advice of a counselor to navigate with confidence.
Encourage Them to Decide to Get Help
It can be tempting to have the “get clean or else” conversation and, they might even agree to it. However, tough love tactics rarely work and most of the time, they backfire. You might be able to talk them into treatment. You might even be successful in forcing them into treatment but unless they are ready to commit to sobriety, they're chances of maintaining recovery after treatment is much lower. The person has to be ready and come to the decision to embrace sobriety on their own.
Offer Help Towards Recovery
Instead of trying to force the issue or continue to enable their substance use, have a conversation about treatment with the guidance of an interventionist or treatment provider. Sometimes people don’t know where to turn for help or feel embarrassed to ask for help. Open a dialogue about what you’re seeing and what your concerns are for them. Listen to their concerns too and acknowledge feelings. The fears of seeking help are real. If you aren’t sure what options are available, offer to accompany them to an appointment with an addictions specialist to find out what the options are. Sometimes, having a loved one join in the process can make it feel less intimidating. Be the one to walk the path of recovery with them.
When your loved one is ready to seek help, the expert clinical team at All Points North Lodge is ready to help them take the next step towards healing and sobriety. We offer programs designed to treat addictions and mental health disorders. Nestled in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, APN Lodge offers a luxury rehab experience that offers the perfect environment for healing, personal growth, and recovery. Using evidence-based treatment approaches, our team of clinicians has the expertise to guide you through the process from referral through program completion. To learn about all that the APN Lodge experience offers, reach out to one of our Contact Center team members at 866-525-9107. Let us help you claim your sobriety and find your way forward.