Helping an Addicted Loved One
Loving an addict is hard. You may feel hopeless as if nothing you do will be able to help them. When you love an addict, it may seem as though they care more about drugs and alcohol than anything else in the world. When addiction places it’s deadly grips around someone, it affects everyone who cares about that person. Many people work tirelessly to try and get their addicted loved one to seek help.
The reality is that most people who are suffering from addiction won’t be willing to seek help until they feel as though they are ready. Your loved one may be in denial that they have a problem or in fear of what life will be life without drugs and alcohol. However, there are ways you can help an addicted loved one.
Take Care of Yourself First
When you love an addict, you might feel a sense of responsibility to keep him or her safe. It is vital to know the difference between enabling and helping. You might obsessively care for him or her, clean up after your loved one faces consequences, or feel like taking care of a loved one is your responsibility. However, this isn’t true. In fact, this mindset is unhealthy and is often referred to as codependency.
If you act out in codependent ways, you will be hurt and disappointed when your efforts go unnoticed. You might become resentful or hostile towards your loved one. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do either of you any favors. Instead, you have to set boundaries and take care of yourself first.
Taking care of yourself is crucial. If you neglect your physical, mental, and emotional health, it is likely that you will suffer and be little help to an addicted loved one. Take time to go to the gym, spa, or lunch dates with friends. Don’t neglect your own life because of an addicted loved one. If needed, seek help from a counselor or an Al-Anon group. It will feel good to know that you are not alone.
Setting boundaries with an addicted loved one is critical. Not only will it help you take care of yourself and meet your needs, but it will show your loved one that you will no longer tolerate their behaviors. Although setting boundaries can be difficult, it is necessary. Examples of boundaries that can be set with an addicted loved one include:
- Refusing to lie for an addicted loved one to cover up his or her behavior
- Not allowing drugs or alcohol in the home under any circumstances
- Refusing to bail a loved one out of jail or pay legal fees on his or her behalf
- Not lending money to an addicted loved one
- No longer allowing a loved one into your home if he or she is under the influence of drugs or alcohol
It is important to set the boundaries that you feel are necessary. However, it is more important to enforce these boundaries. If an addicted loved one realizes that you will give in, he or she will continue to manipulate you. By holding firm in your actions, your loved one may reach a place where he or she feels that seeking treatment is necessary. In addition, you will be less likely to find yourself consumed with the chaos being caused by your loved one. On the other hand, if you fail to enforce your boundaries, you will only enable your loved one to continue abusing substances.
Express Your Concern
Regardless of the pain your loved one has caused you, it is important to remain compassionate and supportive while trying to convince a loved one to go to rehab. After all, if this person feels as though they are being judged or criticized, they will be less likely to confide in you. However, you don’t agree with his or her behaviors, so it is crucial to express your concern.
Let your addicted loved one know exactly how you feel. Use specific events that have happened and describe how those circumstances affected you. Tell your addicted loved one what you fear. Whether that is jail, death, or other extreme consequences, this is the time to lay it all out on the table. You should also listen to how your loved one responds. If he or she feels as though you care about what is said, they will feel as though they can trust you.
If you have expressed your concern and set healthy boundaries, yet your loved one is still reluctant to seek treatment, it may be time to consider an intervention. Remember, denial is a common feeling among addicts. Many believe that their problem isn’t bad enough to warrant professional help.
Consider an Intervention
Many people find interventions to be the best way to confront an addict. Interventions are typically held among a group of loved ones who are concerned about an addict. They are most effective when led by a professional counselor or interventionist.
During an intervention, loved ones are given opportunities to express their concerns about a loved one together. A professional mediator can help mitigate any hostile feelings or conversations. Similarly, it will help everyone in the group stay calm and productive. The goal of an intervention is to provoke an emotional response from an addict that may motivate them to check into rehab.
Confronting an addicted loved one is never easy. Sometimes, even an intervention won’t be effective in convincing a loved one to go to treatment. If your loved one is still unwilling to seek help, it is critical that you continue to enforce your boundaries. Unfortunately, many people who suffer from addiction won’t get help until they are entirely ready to do so. In the meantime, you can continue to be of support to your loved one and be prepared with a local drug rehab contact to call when your loved one is ready.
Medically Reviewed: October 4, 2019
Medical Reviewer | CWC Recovery Staff
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.