Dos and don’ts of helping a loved one with an addiction
SummaryWhen you care about someone who has an addiction you may feel impotent, but the truth is that you can make a difference. Just accepting that there may be action you can take and steps you can implement to help move them toward accepting their problem, can be an empowering and uplifting realisation for you.
- Author Company: Jessica Foreman
- Author Name: Jessica Foreman
Just accepting that there may be action you can take and steps you can implement to help move them toward accepting their problem, can be an empowering and uplifting realisation for you.
That is not to say that it is easy to help someone who is suffering with addiction, either when they are in denial or when they have accepted they have a problem.
One American concept Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) is specifically designed to teach family and friends how to help a loved one change.
Its focuses include understanding the addicted person’s triggers, positive communication, self-care and positive reinforcement strategies.
Its messages can help us all with some dos and don’ts around helping a loved one with an addiction.
To help a loved one with addiction, do:
- Seek support for yourself
It’s not surprising that self-care is an important part of the CRAFT approach.
Having a loved one who is suffering addiction can feel extremely isolating and can quickly take a very personal toll on those around the addicted person.
If you can move toward the belief that there is no reason to feel shame over a loved one having an addiction, it will help you to help yourself and them.
There are support groups and helplines for people who have a loved one who is addicted and these can be a huge lifeline as well as a source of practical tips.
- Practice positive communication
Positive communication is about avoiding blaming, shouting and nagging forms of interaction.
It’s easy to get caught in a spiral of negative communications and habits and it can be powerful to step back and try something different.
Positive communication is more likely to focus on compassion, empathy and ‘I’ statements.
It may include phrases like: “I can see you’re having a tough time. It makes me sad to see you struggling like this and I’m here for you.”
If you’re feeling angry or upset, it can be best to express that calmly and create some space between you and your loved one: “I love you but I feel angry right now. Let’s talk tomorrow.’
- Let your loved one know that recovery is possible
When someone is caught in a spiral of addiction they may initially deny it and see only the positive aspects of their behaviour.
Later, they may want help but find trying to change tough and they could give in.
At times they may not feel worthy or capable of recovery but your belief in their ability to get well will boost them.
To help a loved one with addiction, don’t:
- Expect a quick resolution
Even when someone gets to the point where they accept they have an addiction issue and want to seek help, the solution is not quick and easy.
Breaking free from addiction can, and often is, a long process and one that requires ongoing maintenance.
Someone who is addicted is not able to just stop drinking, taking substances, gambling or engaging in the behaviour. They need to build strategies, resilience, they can be expected to relapse, try things that don’t work for them and struggle.
An addicted person needs time and support to get better.
- Give up on addiction recovery
There are times in the journey of anyone who has experience of addiction where things feel hopeless. The issue may have gone on for months, years, even decades with no improvement or periods of unsustained recovery.
What is vital to remember is that recovery is possible. However bad your situation has become, however all-consuming the addiction appears to be, others have got well and recovery is possible.
Whilst you may have to take steps away from your loved one in order to protect yourself, your life or your family from harm whilst the addiction is in full swing, your loved one can get better one day.
Do what you need to do to survive your loved one’s addiction, but try to remember the person who exists behind the addiction and don’t give up hope that one day they will come back to you.