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10 Ways You Can Help with the Addiction of a Loved One

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Unhappy Wife with Drunk Husband
Unhappy Wife with Drunk Husband

10 Ways You Can Help with the Addiction of a Loved One

By Lynn King, LPCC-S

The pain of addiction not only affects the user, but also their family: shame, guilt, fear, worry, anger, confusion, financial costs, life adjustments, and more. Love, concern, and a willingness to help aimed at changing the behaviors often get twisted into enabling behaviors that only feed the addiction. Aside from seeking out outpatient drug treatment for the addict in your life, here are ten ways you can help your loved ones and help yourself.

  1. Educate yourself on alcoholism and addictions. By understanding addiction you can begin to respond to it more effectively. Find our more via counseling, AA/NA/SA, or Al-Anon.
  2. Let the user experience their own consequences for their actions. Do not rescue/fix their problems for them, it only inhibits their ability to change. Consequences are helpful in deciding future choices.
  3. Watch financially supporting the addict. By doing this you could be supporting the addiction in some way and this will provide fewer reasons for them to change their lifestyle choices.
  4. Abandon the tendency to “figure out” why your loved one drinks/uses. This is a waste of time and energy and can lead to blame focused on someone/something else.
  5. Set boundaries; let your “no” be “no” and your “yes” be “yes.” Do not make idle threats – they are meaningless and confusing.
  6. Give up trying to extract promises from the addict. A person with an addiction cannot keep promises about their behavior.
  7. Do not preach or lecture. A sick person is not motivated by guilt and/or intimidation.
  8. Stay calm and firm in dealing with your loved ones. The emotional pendulum often swings from anger to threats to remorse and is a painful roller coaster to all involved.
  9. Learn how not to accommodate the addiction. Addiction often infiltrates the family subtly, but it is progressive and you can unknowingly accommodate its presence.
  10. Focus on your life and responsibilities. Do not neglect other family members or your own needs (i.e. hobbies, health).