By Sandy Baker
Loving a person with an addiction is challenging. No matter if it is a friend, significant other, or sibling, you may find yourself constantly worried and unsure of what you should do. You want them to be happy and have a good relationship with you, but at the same time, you know they are struggling with their mental and physical health.
Key Considerations to Keep in Mind
No matter what kind of relationship you have with the person, there are a few key things to keep in mind as you navigate the winding roads of a loved one’s addiction.
#1: Face Reality
Be realistic when it comes to your relationship. It can seem easy to go through the day without thinking too much about what’s really happening. Yet denial only prolongs the problems and may allow them to worsen. The reality is that a person you love has a disease that is progressive and highly toxic, not just to them but to others around them.
You may feel worried every day about what’s going to happen. At the same time, you want to “keep the peace.” Some people may worry every day that their loved one will be in an accident, or they may dread having them come home because then the arguing will begin.
No matter what is happening in your life, recognize it. Accept that this is not going away. Know that no matter how much you trust them, your loved one cannot change without help.
#2: Know You Can Leave
No matter how dependent you feel on this person or how much you love them, you can and should leave when and if you or your children are at risk. Any type of mental, emotional, or physical abuse should never be tolerated. That is easy to say and very hard to act on.
Your presence may make it easier for your loved one to continue to use alcohol or drugs. Recognize that your leaving may encourage them to get into treatment. That’s not always the case, but you always have the right to walk away when they will not change.
#3: Create Rules for Your Relationship
To ensure your relationship remains healthy, establish rules for yourself and your family. Here are a few examples:
- If they are drunk, they cannot come home to be around you or your family.
- You will no longer make excuses for them if they do not meet their work or home responsibilities.
- From now on, you will say “no” instead of “yes” when their needs do not align with your own.
Setting boundaries can help you to protect yourself from what’s occurring both physically and mentally. It may also make it harder for your loved one to continue in their addiction.
#4: Know There Is No Way to Fix Them
Many people say they want to help their loved one. They believe their love, rules, and attitude will “fix” the addiction or the relationship. That’s not possible. No one can fix a person other than themselves.
You cannot control or change what your loved one is doing. They have to make the decision for themselves.
#5: Don’t Enable Your Loved One’s Addiction
What could you be doing right now that is making it easier for them to continue to use? That’s a hard question to ask, but the answers are often telling. Are you:
Covering all of the bills for the home?
Calling their boss to lie about why they’re not at work?
Driving them places?
Picking them up in the middle of the night?
Enabling and helping are two very different things. Many people don’t realize they are enabling until they see just how often they are “helping.” Enabling makes it easier for the person to continue with their current behavior. Helping motivates them to change.
#6: Focus on Building Your Own Life
Addiction can consume a relationship. You’re tempted to think about it constantly. Don’t let a loved one’s addiction get in the way of your own healthy life and goals. Dream big and work towards building a life that you are proud of having.
Sometimes this means considering what life would be like if you left the relationship. If you make changes to create a better life for yourself, will your loved one change to follow you? It may be worth finding out.
#7: Make Getting Help Easy
Take the time to call a treatment center like The Ranch at Dove Tree. Inquire about treatment options, verify insurance, and discuss what care levels are available to fit your loved one’s needs. Then, approach them and talk to them about the availability of care. Encourage them to get into treatment.
Let them know you’ll support them during treatment and afterward. Also, let them know that even though your relationship is important to you, they have to make the decision to get help on their own.