How to cope when a loved one is an addict
For every person dealing with addiction, there’s at least one other person suffering along with them. Loving someone an addict can be exhausting and challenging. Here are seven tips for coping.
Learn about addiction
By educating yourself about addiction, you’re less likely to judge the person you love.
For example, to a person who is not addicted, it can seem as simple as ‘just stopping’, but it’s important to understand that addiction is not a choice.
Don’t use guilt tactics
It’s important to understand that simply pleading with your loved one to stop isn’t going to work.
Addiction is complicated, multi-faceted and powerful, and trying to reason with “if you loved me/us, then you’d stop,” is likely to be more damaging to you when they don’t.
Talk to your loved one
Instead, find a time when your loved one is sober (and you are too), to try and talk, calmly, about what is worrying you.
Understand that your lives will change
When all you’re wishing for is for your loved one to ‘go back to how they were before’ it’s easy to wish for your lives to go back to where they were, too.
It’s important to realise that there’s no quick and easy fix and that recovering from addiction requires hard work and acceptance. Things will inevitably be different.
Avoid enabling behaviours
Protecting a person from the consequences of their behaviour, lying for them or covering up an incident, all act as enabling behaviours.
Allow the addicted person to experience the consequences of their actions. Enabling behaviour for someone with a gambling addiction, for example, would be bailing them out of a debt.
For a substance misuser, it might be calling in sick for them when you know they’re out drinking/using.
Find local support
Addiction is a medical condition, so you shouldn’t expect your loved one to be able to spontaneously stop. It is most likely that they will need help and support.
You can’t force someone to seek treatment if they don’t want to, but finding local support and offering information is a good start—even if to start with, the information is just for you.
Look after yourself
Loving someone who is addicted can be exhausting. Be sure to look after your own health, both physical and mental.
Take time out to think about something else. Be mindful that you’re not working harder than the addicted person to ‘try and fix the problem’. Finding a support group is a good start.