When someone you love is struggling with addiction, the stakes are high. You know the consequences, and you’re willing to do just about anything to save them. The good news is that you can help. Just try to avoid these seven common mistakes that loved ones make when dealing with addiction.
There is such a stigma that surrounds addiction that most family members end up feeling some form of embarrassment. But this can be damaging.
Not only is it bad for your own soul to feel shame, but it can also impact the person who is struggling to overcome addiction. When you act in an embarrassed way, it sends the message that someone has done something wrong. With addiction, that’s not really the case.
Addiction is a disease like diabetes or heart disease. Would you be embarrassed that a loved one was diabetic or went into cardiac arrest? Of course not.
Try not to feel ashamed of your loved one’s addiction either. He or she may have made a choice to use an addictive substance, but then the addiction took control. No one can know when addiction will grab them. We only know after it has.
Communication is a difficult skill for anyone to master. It’s most challenging when emotions are heated, and this can happen in the face of addiction.
Whenever you communicate with someone in recovery, it’s important to listen without judgment. This is a very delicate and sensitive time in their lives. Through their addiction, they may have hurt you or other loved ones, but this isn’t the time to place blame. Your focus should remain on this person’s recovery.
To keep yourself calm throughout the process, practice healthy ways to manage stress. You may consider exercise, meditation or yoga to help calm your nerves. Take care of yourself first, and you may find it easier to communicate without frustration.
When someone you love is struggling, you want to “fix it.” For many people, this means taking over and controlling the situation. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do on your own to fix someone else’s addiction. Your loved one has to do the work. Let him or her hold the reins.
If you try to take too much responsibility for your loved one’s recovery, the recovering addict may feel like recovery is out of his hands. This is dangerous because he’s the only one who can make it work. Encourage your loved one but understand that you can’t walk this journey for him.
Addiction leaves people in need for a lot of things. Their money goes to drugs or alcohol, so bills don’t get paid. Let’s say your addicted loved one asks for money to pay rent or the electric bill. You don’t want to see them evicted or living without power, but you’re afraid they’ll spend the money on drugs and then need more. According to them, it’s never their fault. This is part of the victim mentality of an addict. So what do you do?
It’s natural to want to help, but there’s a fine line between helping and enabling an addict. Once your loved one has proven that she’ll misuse your trust, you must employ tough love. If the addict has you to bail her out, she’ll never face any consequences. Let her know that you’re there for support and will help her get sober, but you’re not there for financial assistance.
Staying in the dark
One of the reasons addiction has such a strong stigma is because people don’t understand the disease. When you’re trying to help someone recover, you must understand the beast with which you are dealing.
Learn as much as you can about addiction and how it changes people. This will help you understand your loved one’s behavior and why they seem to have changed so drastically.
You can do your own research on the internet about addiction, and you can also attend support groups to learn from and interact with people who are in similar situations.
Making it about you
Guilt is a common feeling among loved ones of the addicted. Know that their addiction is not your fault.
Regardless of the type of relationship you had or whether you used substances together in the past, this isn’t your fault. Addiction doesn’t affect every person in the same way. Even if two people do the same drugs, one person may get addicted while the other does not. Once addiction takes hold, it is in the driver’s seat. Your loved one has lost control. He didn’t choose for this to happen any more than you could have caused it to happen.
Just as addiction isn’t your fault, you can’t will it away. Ultimatums won’t help because the addict will always choose the substance. He has become hardwired to do so at this point.
Understand that this isn’t about you. You are here to play a supporting role through the process.
Expecting a quick fix
Recovery is a long and challenging road, and not just for the addict. You will also find yourself on an emotional rollercoaster during your loved one’s recovery.
The early days of recovery are particularly challenging for loved ones because addicts tend to become emotionally immature in early sobriety. From dependence on drugs or alcohol, they have changed their brain’s physiology and must relearn a new way of looking at the world. Regardless of their emotional maturity before addiction, it’s like they are learning how to manage their emotions for the first time. Don’t expect things to change overnight. Your loved one needs your patience now more than ever.
Patience and understanding are two of the most important things to maintain during a loved one’s recovery. It may be easier said than done, but if you can work to maintain these things, you will play a great supportive role in their journey. Looking for the best drug and alcohol rehab centers? Give us a call to find a treatment center near you. Are you looking for drug rehab in California? Our addiction experts are here to help you find the perfect place for your recovery.