Watching a loved one suffer from addiction can be heartbreaking. Humans are resilient creatures, so when they come up against battles they seemingly continuously lose, it can be incredibly disheartening. Knowing this, many people who have loved ones dealing with addictions tend to try to offer support and help. Unfortunately, all too often, this support isn’t actually improving the situation. The following will explore a few things you can do to actually help a loved one deal with addiction.
Don’t Assume They’re Not Trying
First and foremost, it’s easy to judge a person if they’ve just been on a several-day bender or have returned to a harmful behavior after what seemed like a nice break away from it. Never assume that this person isn’t trying with all their might. You’re not inside their heads or in their hearts; you can’t know how hard they fought against their urges. You can’t know how brutal the weight of their struggle is to bear. Even if it doesn’t look like someone is putting in effort from the outside, that doesn’t mean they’re not.
You Can’t Do The Work For Them
Another common but harmful assumption is that you can do the work of dealing with an addiction, or at least part of the work for a person you love. You can’t. Only they can deal with their addiction. Only they can determine to get better. Only they can complete the necessary steps for healing and recovery. It doesn’t matter how badly you want them to get better. Yes, this might leave you feeling helpless. Yes, you might need to seek out a support group to help you handle this.
When someone is ready to deal with their addiction, they’ll quickly discover that there are several treatment plans and options available to them. Many people find working with a rehab center or support group incredibly beneficial. Oftentimes addiction is a complicated series of problems, not just substance abuse or behavior issues, and this means working with a team of professionals is often ideal. It’s incredibly hard to tackle nutritional needs, stress management techniques, trauma acknowledgment and healing approaches, trigger management, and the physical experience of withdrawal all by oneself. Experts know that addiction doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and they know that there are often many layers of healing that need to take place simultaneously if a person wants to permanently end their relationship with addictive behavior or substance.
Let Them Lead Conversations
Oftentimes, addiction treatment plans involve therapy or counseling. It’s not uncommon for traumatic past events to come up in conversation during treatment, and it’s also not uncommon for people to discover that relationships or other areas of their lives have become problematic. If your loved one is attending therapy, they may wish to discuss past events with you, or they might want to say nothing. They might want to apologize, but they might also want to explain ways that you’ve hurt them in the past. Let them lead conversations of this nature and practice active listening. It can be incredibly difficult to hear someone explain that you or your behavior is a part of their pain. It can be tempting to defend yourself or explain how they’ve hurt you in return, but neither of these approaches is very effective. Listen and tell yourself and your loved one that you’re going to think about what they said and come back to them if there’s any clarification needed or extra commentary you feel like sharing. Once you have calmed, revisit their points and see if there are changes you can make to help facilitate the changes they are making. Again, you might want to seek out your own support group to help you with this process.
Take Care Of Yourself
You are not an endless well of energy. Things like watching someone you love suffer, providing more for an unwell person than you would have to provide for a good person, and struggling with doubts about the healthiness of a relationship you have can all take a toll on you. If your loved one is on a healing journey, there very well might be a time they come to you asking for some form of support, even just a conversation. You want to be ready for this, and that means you need to take care of yourself so that you have the energy to offer your loved one in those moments. Drink filtered water. Sleep. Exercise. Eat organic fruits and vegetables. Do breathing exercises. Take care of your money and keep your body and home clean. Caring for yourself not only will help you have the energy to spare should your loved one need it, but it will also set a good example for your loved one. Many people struggling with addiction need to relearn a lot of basic things like self-care.
The above information should help you support someone you love who is struggling with addiction. It is vital that you understand that part of this process involves supporting yourself.
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