Seven Ways to Support a Loved One with Addiction

Suppose you have a friend or relative who is struggling with a substance use disorder. Whether it is alcohol, recreational drugs, or illicit drugs, it can be one of the most challenging situations to witness. Addiction can be crumbling, and when you are sitting in the backseat, watching it unfold with your loved one, it is a normal reaction to want to help. But how can you help? Many individuals are afraid to help, may not know how to help, or may cause more harm than good when trying to help. While each situation is unique, and everyone is fighting their own battle, below are some general tips on how to support a loved one who is struggling with an addiction.

Establish trust

The relationship between you and your loved one can be severed if trust is not at the foundation. Therefore it is essential to take action to build and strengthen trust in the relationship. Trust requires honesty, compassion, empathy, boundaries, and being able to communicate regardless of having different opinions or perspectives. Avoid negative interactions such as nagging, name-calling, criticizing, and judging, and instead, focus on the positive ways to help your loved one seek treatment.

Do not enable

An enabler is defined as “an individual who encourages negative or self-destructive behaviors.” 

Unfortunately, many family members and friends act as enablers to their loved ones who struggle with a substance use disorder. We often are scared or upset for our loved ones and want to support them, but instead of being honest with them, we try to rescue them from their addictive behaviors. We often will lend them money, bail them out of jail, make excuses, and hold their hand when they are in trouble. Even if we are doing these things out of compassion and empathy, this is more hurtful than helpful and can lead to worsening behaviors. Instead of enabling our loved ones, we should hold them accountable, allow them to experience the consequences associated with their addiction, and try our best to help them seek professional help.

Educate yourself

Mental health and substance use disorders are not simple. They are complicated disorders with painful consequences that can potentially wreak havoc. However, with the right education and treatment, there is hope for a full recovery and a successful future. As a family member or friend, it is essential to educate yourself about the addiction process so you can better understand your loved one’s disorder and journey to recovery.

Practice compassion and empathy

Addiction is difficult. The path to recovery is challenging, and sometimes relapse can be devastating. Nobody is to blame, but we often find ourselves pointing fingers, arguing, and destroying relationships because of the underlying addiction. During these times, it is crucial to take a step back, be kind, offer help, listen, and practice compassion and empathy towards your loved one.

Encourage treatment

Every substance use and mental health disorder will require professional treatment, at some point in the course of the disease. Seeking treatment earlier rather than later can reduce harmful consequences and can potentially lead to faster recovery. It is essential to encourage your loved one to seek treatment and find a treatment center that best fits their needs and personality. The relationship between the treatment team and your loved one is one of the most critical factors associated with recovery.

Set boundaries

In the chaos of addiction, boundaries are essential for your well-being. When individuals are deep in the perils of their addiction, they often portray harmful behaviors. They can cross boundaries that can potentially affect your own mental well-being and personal life. Whether it is prohibiting unethical behaviors such as lying, stealing, and cheating or not allowing them to use alcohol or drugs in your home, setting boundaries is beneficial to both you and your loved one.

Practice self-care

Helping and supporting your loved one during this time can take a toll on your physical and mental health. You may find yourself feeling sad, exhausted, and overwhelmed. As a result, this can affect both your personal and professional life. It is essential to take time for yourself to re-focus and re-center. Remember to spend quality time with your family, practice healthy sleep and dietary habits, and engage in activities that bring you joy. If you want to be a reliable support system for your loved one, you must first take care of yourself.

Someone once told me, ‘I heard you finally got rid of your addiction.’ I smiled and said, ‘No, addiction doesn’t work like that. Once you have it, you will always have it. I just choose not to feed it.”

– Anonymous

Seeking help at Quest 2 Recovery

Our philosophy at Quest 2 Recovery is simple: heal the mind, body, and spirit in a family-like environment. We believe in a holistic approach to treatment, one that caters to each individual’s distinct needs. As a trauma-based treatment program, we believe in resolving the underlying issues that brought the onset of substance use. Our team of clinicians helps each client identify the faulty belief systems stemming from childhood, then psych-educate clients on the symptoms of addiction and mental health disorders to understand and alleviate the power of certain triggers”. 

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