Witnessing a loved one struggle with addiction can be a heart wrenching experience. Often, our natural inclination is to try anything possible to relieve their pain and suffering. But what we might view as an act of compassion can instead inadvertently enable—or encourage—the addiction.
Think of enabling as anything we do (giving the person money, making excuses or covering for the person, etc.) or don’t do (denying/ignoring the problem, etc.) that ultimately serves to prevent the person struggling with addiction from experiencing consequences or taking responsibility.
Just as we didn’t cause our loved one’s addiction, we also can’t control it. However, we can take specific actions to help manage our own wellbeing if a loved one is struggling with staying sober. We can start with the suggestions below:
- Learn about addiction as a chronic disease. Empower yourself by gaining an understanding of addiction through the disease lens—a view that is widely accepted by the medical community. Recognize that recovery is a lifelong process, relapse is not uncommon (nor does it equal failure) and a loved one struggling with addiction might not be ready to change.
- Develop your own support system. This can include family, friends, a therapist and support groups like Al-Anon.
- Detach with love. This isn’t an ultimatum or a threat to the person with addiction. Instead, it’s about considering how you will take care of your own needs even if your loved one doesn’t get/stay sober. How might you let go of the obsession with a loved one’s addiction?
- Communicate and enforce your boundaries. In what ways will you no longer enable your loved one? What do you view as unacceptable behavior? What are you willing to do to support (drive to a 12-step meeting, help them get to treatment, etc.) him or her.
Wherever your loved one might be in the recovery process, the suggestions above can be helpful in keeping your own cup full.
If your loved one is ready for addiction treatment, First Step Recovery can help. Contact us today at 330.369.8022!