Having a loved one who is an addict can be extremely tough. You see them when they don’t seem to be the person you once knew: when they’re under the influence, when they’ve lost sight of their previous goals. No matter your relationship to the addict in your life, there are some key steps you can take to help them, and help yourself too.
How to Love an Addicted Person:
- Don’t try to “fix” them – You have no control over the addict or their actions. You didn’t cause their addiction, and it is not your responsibility to fix it. This simple concept can be hard to grasp, but once you understand this you can start taking care of yourself.
- Learn the difference between “helping” and “enabling” – Constantly “helping” an addict by giving them money, or buying them clothes and food, only reinforces the idea that you will always be there to pick up the broken pieces. For most of our students, it takes a loved one finally saying “no” to them coming home for the millionth time that saves their lives. When someone they love enables them, they say they would have just gone back out to the next party knowing that they could just go back to their support network without any lasting repercussions. When an addicted person has nowhere to go, they are more likely to surrender to treatment.
- Know that “self care” does not equal “selfish” – Just think about any time you have been on an airplane. During the announcements, the flight attendant will always tell you, “Secure an oxygen mask on yourself before helping those in need, such as small children.” You cannot help others if you are not doing the necessary things to help yourself. You need to make sure to take care of yourself, whatever that looks like. Maybe it’s finding a support group to go to, engaging with friends, going for a walk in nature – just doing something you love. Ultimately, the healthier you are, the better you will be able to cope with the challenges of supporting a loved one battling addiction.
- Learn to set boundaries. – It is important to set boundaries you can enforce. You cannot tell an addict to just quit using, but you can choose to not be around them when they are under the influence. In the wise words of Melody Beattie, author of The New Codependency, “Be clear. If people have room to misinterpret, they will. People hear what they want to and what causes the least pain.”
- Do not withdraw your love – Try to stand by the person as much as possible, except when doing so could cause harm to yourself or others. Deep down an addict wants love and belonging, as we all do. Do not sever the emotional connection, for that is the very thing that has the power to heal them.
“Do not sever the emotional connection, for that is the very thing that has the power to heal them.”
The Best Thing You Can Do? Don’t Wait, Reach Out For Help Now
Usually, when an addict reaches out for help, it’s after they’ve been dealing with it for a long time. If you know that someone you love is struggling with addiction, reach out for help for as soon as you can.