When your loved one becomes consumed by the disease of addiction, it affects every aspect of their life, including their relationship with you. Loving someone who struggles with substance use disorder can be painful. You may find yourself lost, unsure of what you need to do. Fortunately for you, many people have been where you are right now, looking for answers. Read on to learn four things that you can do to help support your loved one as they work to address their disease and begin their recovery journey.
Open, honest communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship and is a goal in recovery. When a person struggles with substance use, there is often a pattern of dishonesty, minimization, or secrecy associated with the use. While you cannot control the behavior of your loved one, you can initiate communication that is straightforward and clear.
Set an example by being honest and open with your loved one. Being transparent with your friend or family member shows you still have faith in them and are working to rebuild trust. It also serves to vocalize your needs and expectations, which put you both on the same path forward.
Your loved one may experience an overwhelming feeling of isolation when dealing with the disease of addiction. This is a very normal experience and, in many ways, creates a cycle of use to escape negative thoughts/feelings, which leads to further self-isolation. It would help if you let them know that you are there for them. Let them know that there is a safe place for them to come to when they decide they want help. It would be best to say this to them in person. However, if you cannot meet up with them, you can call them or send them text messages. Show them that you still care by reassuring them with loving texts or voicemails. Not everyone is ready to hear these unconditional messages of assurance and hope, but they set the groundwork that people know where to go when they are ready.
Set Clear Boundaries
Setting boundaries is one of the most challenging things to do with anyone, let alone a family member struggling with the disease of addiction. You must keep in mind that your loved one is not the same person you knew before they initiated their use. Actively being intoxicated, in withdrawals, or seeking mind/mood-altering substances alters how a person thinks and feels. It creates a sense of desperation and fear. They may lie, steal, and cheat to get what they need despite these behaviors conflicting with their moral character.
Setting a boundary, such as enforcing the expectation that your loved one cannot be present in the home if they are intoxicated, is very difficult to do but is necessary for your loved one to begin experiencing consequences that may drive them into recovery. Remember: if there are no negative outcomes to substance use, there are no motivations to change the behavior. Boundaries are easier to set when you are not going it alone. Utilize other friends and/or family to create a unified front and support each other in facing these tough situations.
Take Care of Yourself, Too
As family and friends of those struggling with addiction, it can feel like we are experiencing more pain than they are at times. We often put the needs of our loved ones before ourselves, and the result is to be over-tired and resentful. While trying to help, we find that we set aside our own personal goals and needs. Don’t forget to take time for yourself. It may seem selfish to focus on your own needs at this critical time, but it is vital at all stages of your loved ones’ recovery journey. There are many resources available, including Bradford’s Family Program, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and individual therapy. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for others when the time comes.
As much as your loved one will experience changes when they initiate a recovery journey, you too will find yourself and your relationships changing. Substance use does not occur in a vacuum—it impacts the family system and friend network. Supporting your loved one through their recovery from the disease of addiction will set the foundation for a healthier relationship going forward. It is possible to get both your life and your loved one back.
If you have a loved one struggling with the disease of addiction, know that we are here for both of you. Give us a call 24/7 at 888-SOBER-40 and begin the healing process today.