There is a theory called the six degrees of separation. It states that everyone in the world can be connected through a maximum of six people. To elaborate, someone who lives in the rural outskirts of Alabama can know someone who knows someone etc. who lives in the urban city of Tokyo. Almost everyone knows someone who’s an addict or who’s affected by addiction. Whether it’s a neighbor, a relative, a friend, or a coworker, the disease of addiction can indirectly affect anyone. There are many articles and help centers for addicts themselves but what about the person who’s affected by someone suffering from the disease of addiction? What can they do to help their addicted loved one?
Seeing Both Sides
Whether you’re an addict or the family member of an addict you feel like no one understands your side. The key to helping everyone is to start by acknowledging both the addict and the affected. The addict usually suffers in volumes. They have tried time and time again to get help and the whole family seems to notice every time they fail. The family on the other had suffers in silence. Most of their friends are unaware that they are dealing with an addict and most people don’t feel comfortable talking about their inner struggles to coworkers or friends. As a result, both parties end up resenting the other instead of helping each other. In a recent study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, they found that the more social support and positive family involvement an addict has, the less likely they are to relapse. The addict has to understand that their family just wants the best for them and that they can be a huge part of their support system. The family has to understand that it takes time for the addict to recover. Most of the time the addict never intended to hurt their family, they were just innocent bystanders. Once the family understands that nothing was done personally both the addict and the family begin to recover.
Acceptance is the Answer
A huge misconception about addiction is that if the family controls everything for them, they won’t relapse. Families have gone to great lengths trying to control an addict’s assets, finances, and livelihood in order to prevent an addict from liquidating everything in pursuit of drugs. It rarely ever works; more often than not the addict still finds a way to get loaded. The family is then let down and left wondering where they went wrong or how they can control things better next time. Stop trying to control them! Letting go of control and accepting the addict for where they are at in their recovery is best. Understand that it’s not your fault, there is nothing any family member could’ve done differently in order to prevent and addict from becoming an addict. Sometimes people need to go through treatment or rehab multiple times in order to stay sober. Others only go to rehab once and have successful long-term sobriety. Either way, accepting them for where they are at in their lives and letting them make their own decisions, as long as it doesn’t directly affect the family’s livelihood or safety is the only way that they can truly be free and recover when they are ready.
There is however a huge difference between accepting an addict and letting them walk all over you. Setting boundaries and sticking to those boundaries can help push the addict toward recovery. The boundaries are meant to help the family, they are not meant to control the addict in any negative way. For instance, if your son keeps asking to borrow money and you suspect he’s using it to purchase drugs, setting a boundary would be telling him that he isn’t allowed to borrow money from you anymore or saying no anytime he asks for money. Family members of addicts are easily manipulated by and may end up caving into their boundary before they even get the ability to set it. As difficult as it may be to stick to the boundary that’s set, it’s the only way you can protect yourself. It may be hard at first but the addict will thank you in the future for not giving in. This doesn’t mean that family members must cut their loved ones off completely. If they need something that’s within your means and is a reasonable request, then a little bit of help can go a long way. Purchasing them a meal or giving them a ride to a meeting are a few things you can do to help out the recovering addict.
The Little Things
These are just a few small suggestions that families can follow in order to help their loved one. Solutions Recovery found that involving the whole family in the rehabilitation process, treatment program, and recovery plan is the most effective way for addicts to have success and feel supported. It’s important to note that this is merely a family guide for addicted loved ones and shouldn’t be used as an end all be all way to cure addiction. Even if you aren’t able to be a part of the treatment or rehabilitation there are may other ways you can help. Reminding them that you love them, telling them positive affirmations, and acknowledging small achievements are just a few everyday things that go a long way. Finally, the most important thing families can do when dealing with an addict is to have patience. Many addicts take a few tries to achieve long-term sobriety and for some it’s very difficult to gain more than a few months at a time. Being patient with them, loving them for exactly where they are at, and accepting that they are recovering at their own pace is the best way to let go of control and let them recover.