What To Do When "Your Person" is Addicted
Having a friend or family member struggle with addiction is never easy, but it's especially difficult when the affected person is very close to you. Whether it's a best friend, a close sibling or someone else you think of as "your person," that individual's trials and tribulations can seem like your own. When you have someone who you're used to counting on for emotional support or who you're ready to stand beside through thick and thin, it's easy to get caught up in the emotional whirlwind surrounding addiction.
When your person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it can be difficult to understand what role you can or should take in recovery. You do not want to make things worse or become an enabler to your person's self-destructive behaviors. However, you can't bear the thought of abandoning your loved one or pulling away from the relationship.
If you're in this situation, the first thing that you must understand is that your person's struggles are not your own. It may feel that way, but an individual's personal battle with addiction is not something that anyone else can fight. You are not responsible for another person's decisions or happiness even if it can feel that way sometimes.
This does not mean that you can't love a person with an addiction or that you can do nothing to help. Understanding what your loved one is going through and how you can be supportive will help to ease your feelings of helplessness and allow you to be a good friend to a person with addiction.
What Addiction Feels Like for the Addict
Addiction is not a moral failure or something that can be overcome through willpower alone. It is a disease that affects the body and mind. An addict's brain will lie or come up with excuses and rationalizations. For example, an addict may convince herself that she doesn't really have a problem or that others are making a big deal out of nothing. She might also convince herself that it would be impossible to feel happy without the substance of choice or that things could never be any better so there is no benefit in changing.
In the grip of this inner voice, it's easy to believe that these rationalizations are the truth. Quitting is physically and emotionally painful and exhausting, and the immediate pain of withdrawal feels more severe than the more long-term pain and risks associated with addiction.
In other words, an addict will not be able to quit until the pain of quitting is less than the pain of continuing to use. This is the moment that is sometimes referred to as "rock bottom." In reality, an addict does not need to lose everything before seeking help as the phrase "rock bottom" might suggest. However, he or she will need to truly want to change and be committed to facing the frightening and painful challenges associated with letting go of a chemical crutch.
Positive Ways to Help When Your Person is Addicted
Your person is the human you're closest to. You share a special connection, and that connection is more important than you may realize.
Do not enable your loved one's habits by lending money, providing access to substances or shielding the addict from consequences. Instead, show your love and support by continuing to have a relationship in whatever way you can; do fun things together and share your lives within firm boundaries. You can also show your support by gently but firmly making it clear that you love your person but not the addictive behavior. Phrases such as, "This is not your fault, but it is your responsibility" and "I'm scared that you will face (specific consequence), and I don't want you to" can help with communicating this.
From the outside, it might not seem that your love is worth much. You can't cure someone's addiction with love, and sometimes your love may be rejected. However, for the addict, that love is a vital lifeline. Addiction will tell a person that he or she is irredeemable or unworthy. Addiction will try to isolate a person. Your love is a weapon against these messages.
If your person is ready to get help, or if you need tips on how to talk to your addicted loved one, contact an admissions counselor at SpringBoard Recovery.