When you realize that the person you love has been struggling with an addiction, your emotions are going to be all over the place.
You’ll feel guilty for not noticing their problem earlier. You’ll feel angry that they’ve hidden something from you. You’ll feel isolated from them as if you don’t know them anymore.
The main thing, however, is that you still love them. The anger and hurt and frustration all stem from your compassion and desire to see them happy and healthy.
Loving an addict is difficult but not impossible. There are some steps you can take to make sure your relationship stays strong without encouraging their addiction.
Steps to Loving an Addict (Without Enabling Them)
The compassion you naturally feel for the person you love means it’s often hard to see past your emotions to stop enabling their habit.
These five key steps will help you to help your loved one without bringing you down into the spiral of substance misuse and denial.
1. Avoid Self-Denial
Before you talk to your loved one about their addiction you need to deal with your own feelings first.
Denial occurs in several ways. It could be ignoring the problem when a mutual friend speaks to you about it or blaming yourself for your loved one’s addiction.
It’s hard to hear someone you love telling you that they have an addiction. The very fact they are telling you, however, is a step towards seeking help.
They have reached out to you. Even if the person isn’t asking you for help, they are asking for your understanding.
2. Don’t Provide Financial Help
Financial hardship goes hand-in-hand with addiction. Craving a substance means people will prioritize spending their money on drugs or alcohol over essentials such as rent, utility bills, and food.
If your loved one asks for financial help and you feel you must step in to provide assistance, suggest that your money goes towards their rehab or treatment instead.
3. Stop Making Excuses for Their Addiction or Behavior
Denying that they have an addiction at all, such as saying, “We all drink too much sometimes,” belittles their struggle.
It’s also easy to say that they use substances because they have had a hard life or are going through a stressful time.
Instead of making excuses, offer to help your friend or family member to seek professional help to get them through these challenging times.
4. Resist Taking over Their Responsibilities
Unless children are involved, step away from their daily responsibilities. If you take over simple tasks such as doing the grocery shopping or laundry, it is easy to snowball this into running their lives for them.
Without responsibilities, it is much easier for an addict to excuse their addiction and use even more than they were before.
Offer assistance if you feel they need help, but only in ways that they are there too. For example, take them to the grocery store with you to make sure they are still involved in essential aspects of their own life.
5. Find Ways to Socialize Without Involving Their Addiction
Triggers for substance misuse are all over the place. For illegal drugs, it is easier to avoid places and activities that may encourage your friend to use.
Alcohol, however, is freely available and part of a normal social life for many adults. Instead of expecting your loved one to remain sober on a night out, arrange to go for a hike or have a picnic in the park together instead.
This will keep your relationship bond strong, provide them with essential social contact, and minimize their contact with environmental triggers.
Help Your Loved One Find Addiction Treatment
The best way you can continue loving an addict without enabling their risky behavior is to help them seek treatment.
This could mean helping them to find a residential rehab or a regular outpatient therapy group. Whatever type of treatment you and they feel might help, do everything you can to make sure they can easily access and continue treatment.
It often helps to show an addict the ins and outs of a rehab treatment center to help reassure them what to expect when they enter treatment. Schedule a tour of our treatment facility today to help start your loved one on their road to recovery.