Posted on: September 21st, 2019

Help for Your Addicted Family Member – You kind of want to wring their neck. Beg. Plead. Ask nicely. Be firm. Make them. Buy it for them. Pretend it is not even happening. The myriad of emotions and the lengths that we are willing to go to help a loved one who is suffering from addiction can take its toll.

Let’s face it. Being the family member of a using addict or alcoholic is maddening and heartbreaking at the very same time. On any given day you can experience a kaleidoscope of different feelings and be faced with situations that are heartbreaking, or plain old scary. Your loved one seems as though in a fog—so far in the cloud of denial that you can barely see them as they were before this nightmare began. They are shape-shifting right in front of your eyes into someone that you don’t even recognize. It sucks. You have likely tried everything that you can think of to help them see their problem and its effects on their life and on yours.

It may have taken you a while to get to the point where you were even sure that there was an addiction issue in your loved one’s life. It is a disease of hiding and secrets after all. Your trust has been broken over and over along with your heart as you watch and face the destructive nature of addiction as it takes hold. It is usually the family that is the last to know about an addiction in a loved one, and it is also the family that is often the most devastated in the wake of each disaster.

So. What can you do?

It isn’t easy to hear, but there is very little that you can do to influence someone else’s choice to get sober, other than to start to get help yourself and to be supportive. That probably sucks to hear. This isn’t to say that there is literally zero that can be done. The disease of addiction is a family disease. That means that you are sick too. Addiction takes everyone down. Consider the amount of time that you spend ‘helping’ the addict. All of the hours worrying, looking for them when they are missing, pleading with them, strategizing to save them. The truth is that that is a large amount of your life that you are not living. It is sometimes hard to see the toll another’s addiction can have on our lives. It often builds slowly over a period of time, and so we do not notice as our life gets taken from us in little pieces. Then, it can hit us like a ton of bricks: we spend most of our waking days worrying about the addict in our lives. It overshadows even the simplest of pleasures.

Is this where you are at? Regardless of the place where you loved one is currently, you can get started on your own healing path. You really can. Co-dependency is a treatable condition of being, and there are many programs and meetings to get you started on your road to recovery. Learning how to detach with love from your loved one, how to have boundaries, how to have a supportive circle of friends—these things are all in your reach.

If it is possible to find a support network for yourself first, this is always best. Remember how, when we fly in an airplane,  the instructions are to attach your own oxygen first. It is when you are stabilized that you can be of the very best help to your loved one struggling. Often, while in treatment for codependency, the most successful and sane plans can be made in regards to how you can help your loved one. It seems backwards, but it really isn’t. You have to put your own wellbeing first and stop the situation from completely depleting you of the enjoyment in your own life.

Once you are in a better place, you will be able to be there in ways that are more nourishing and positive. Here are some good tips and gentle ways of helping that make a difference along the way, for yourself and your loved one:

  1. Go to Alanon, Alateen,  CODA, or seek a councillor who specializes in codependency.
  2. Always remember addiction is on a moral failing. Your person is sick.
  3. Boundaries should always be kept. Rescue mode at the cost of your own well-being is a bad idea.
  4. Only the addict can help themselves, ultimately. If they were going to do it for you or anyone else, it would have already happened.
  5. Always encourage your loved one to seek help. Perhaps check in on this occasionally.
  6. Live a healthy lifestyle and try not to join in yourself with partaking.
  7. Don’t cover for your addict. They need to face the repercussions of their actions, not continually get bailed out.
  8. Keep your hope alive. Be encouraging. Eventually this stance will result in a breakthrough. Do this even in the event of a relapse. It often takes a little while to get the hang of sobriety. 

It is not the easiest to support an addict/alcoholic still using or drinking, nor is it easy to support someone in recovery. Take care of yourself. Take the time for self-love and do it first. Do it in spite of. Do it as if your life depends on it, because it really does. It is time for your healing and happiness to come first.

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