One of the most difficult situations anyone can face is trying to help a family member with their addiction. We're faced with the reality that the life of someone we love is going right down the toilet unless something is done. Since our addicted loved one doesn't seem to be doing anything, we naturally feel the need to step in and bail them out. As noble as this seems, it's a recipe for disaster with most addicts. In this article, we'll navigate the dangerous waters of addiction to help you save the life of your loved one without drowning yourself.
Nature Of Addiction: The basic nature of addiction is a lie we addicts tell ourselves. Usually, we feel something is missing in us that makes us feel inadequate in some way. The lie we tell ourselves is that a drug or drink or other substance or action will fill that void and make us feel whole, if only temporarily. Unfortunately, the hole in us is ever expanding as we see ourselves more and more dependent on a drug to feel complete, so it takes more of the drug to do what it did before. Unless a dramatic change takes place in the way we addicts see ourselves, we will go from one substance to another to try and fill the vacuum our lives have become.
Don't Believe A Word An Addict Says: It isn't that your loved one wants to deceive you or let you down in any way. They hate it when that happens, despise themselves even more and need their drug even more, as a result. It's that the drug has become who they are. They feel the drug is essential to survival, so, when forced to make a choice between their loved one or their drug, most addicts choose the drug. Because of the need for the drug, the one skill addicts hone to perfection is the use of deception and manipulation so they can get more of their drug. We've seen the love of countless family members be used against them and their better judgment just so the addict can get more drugs. If your loved one promises to quit, to go into rehab, to get a job, if you'll “help" them out just this once more, don't believe it. Believe what they do, not what they say. If they voluntarily quit and check themselves into a program, have hope, but don't believe until you see a solid track record of clean and sober. When you insist on seeing solid proof, you're helping your loved one understand what it's going to take.
Set Solid Boundaries: This is where your help is needed most. By setting solid boundaries and being inflexible to their pressure, you show your addicted loved one how important it is to live within those boundaries. Addicts are just like spoiled children. They will pressure you with lies, tantrums, withholding love, whatever it takes to get what they want out of you. Once they have it, you won't hear from them again until they need something else. If your boundary is solid, just like a child, your addicted loved one will feel more secure and more loved. Obviously, the most important boundary with an addiction is to quit. If you have an addict staying with you and there is no condition that they quit their addiction, you have no boundary. If your loved one isn't staying with you but asks for help every now and then, the boundary has to be the same. . . quitting. It isn't love to give a child everything it wants. . . it's abuse.
To Help Them Don't Help Them: We've heard from many family members who felt they weren't contributing to their loved one's addiction. . . just helping them survive. As painful as it is, if you have a loved one so addicted to drugs or alcohol that they need your help for food, clothes or housing, the worst thing you can do is give those things to them. It makes it easier for them to be an addict. By helping support them, we are enabling them to use whatever money they get from other sources (often, the Government) to buy their drug. The only way we can help them while they're using is to let them fall flat on their faces. Let them feel every bit of the pain and wretchedness their choices have brought them to. The more pain they feel, the more willing they will be to do what it takes to get clean. One woman was so hooked on speed Social Services took her 3 children away. She got clean, got a job and, after 18 months, got her children back. For her, losing her children was “hitting bottom. " We don't know where the “bottom" is for our loved ones. For me, it was the hurt and fear I saw in my wife's face. Sadly, some die before they hit bottom. This is why the waters of addiction are treacherous. Sometimes, when you're trying to save someone they pull you under.
Don't You Become Addicted: One of the less publicized things they teach life guards is how to keep from being drowned by someone they're trying to save. The same thing can happen with an addicted loved one. Many think they're safe if they don't use the same substance. This isn't true! When trying to help someone recover from addiction, many become addicted to being needed by the addict. Codependency is as serious an addiction as any drug. If you're helping an addicted loved one, you should take a codependency test to see where you stand. Many have found themselves unintentionally keeping a loved one dependent on drugs just to feed their own addiction to being needed. The way you express your love for someone can actually be an addiction. Help that isn't codependent will be expressed by how strongly we oppose what our addicted loved ones want, even if they mistreat and abuse us as a result. If we love them, we won't believe them, we will set firm boundaries and we won't help them as long as they're abusing a substance. True love is expressed by doing and saying, not what your loved ones want, but what they need. . . even if it means losing their love.
Glen Williams is Webmaster for http://www.way2hope.org , founder and CEO of E-Home Fellowship (EHF), Inc. He has been helping people with family and life problems full-time since 1989. You can comment on his articles at Way2Hope Family Life Forums .