Acknowledging that a loved one is addicted is a difficult thing to do, and helping the addicted individual to realize it themselves is even harder. Addiction can lead someone down an irreconcilable path of self-destruction, all the while rendering them seemingly unable to help themselves or act on their own better judgment. The anger, sadness, and other emotions that impact the addicted individual causes pain for them, as well as everyone in their immediate home or family — so it’s only natural that helping the person in any way possible becomes a top priority. However, understanding the nature of the recovery process and all the different facets it entails can be the difference between helping and enabling.
First, understand that addiction is not an isolated affliction that affects just one person – it affects anyone around them, leaving their family as ground zero for a myriad of complicated problems to solve. While this can be difficult to conceive for the person with a substance use disorder (SUD), it is a reality known all too well to their family members, and provides a series of problems for them to overcome even before it is possible to offer help.
In trying to find the best way to help the person suffering from an SUD, it is common to approach the problem with a careful step and a soft, supportive tone. Although a caring nature is good, it can eventually take its toll on those who are constantly having to tip-toe around the home. The mental price of dancing around addiction is vast and unseen, and it can be extraordinarily stressful. When you are aware of the intense and agitated reaction an addicted person can exhibit, especially when either directly confronted or simply alluded to, it can seem much easier to avoid certain words, topics, or tones in general. Unfortunately, this can mean acting against one’s own desires. While putting the needs of an addicted person first is noble, the stressors involved by forcing a certain, limited kind of communication is massive, and inevitably involves compromising one’s own self for your loved one who needs help. When all is said and done, it can be difficult to balance helping the individual and staying stable when you are a caretaker who feels like they are not just walking on eggshells, but living in an entire house made of them. Acknowledge the importance of being able to care for one’s self before attempting to take on the intense trials of supporting someone with a drug or alcohol addiction.
Dancing around the issue of addiction and trying to create the most comfortable environment for a single member of your household is daunting and exhausting. However, allowing for too much comfort in order to avoid confrontation can give way to an enabling atmosphere. In a stressful situation populated by an exhausted household, it can be tempting to grasp to any kind of “normalcy,” or a return to times before the addiction was present (or at least before it was as well-documented). Ignoring discussions or denying clear signs of continued use can be the easiest method for one to cope with the stress in the home, or provide an easy way to pretend that things are “normal.” Not only does this stifle the recovery process, but it also defines a part of what enabling can mean for the person with an SUD: they can be using again, without consequence, in an environment that won’t confront them. This method of “pretend it’s normal,” can be almost addicting in its own way, giving way to a simple, all-encompassing answer that is easy to implement and gives instant relief. Yet this has to be addressed, alongside any and all practices of self-care before any help can be given to the addicted individual.
Knowing all of this prepares you for one simple truth: helping someone the right way will probably make their anger, frustrations, and hate all come to the front. Absolutely nothing about recovering from addiction is easy or painless, and that goes for the addicted person, as well as everyone around them. Helping them requires patience, but also a stern love. It requires experiencing one’s own vulnerability and desires against an unwavering, stoic constitution. It requires contradictions, constantly toeing the line of friend and foe to the addicted person. While getting professional help is the most optimal route, one cannot simply sit idly by and watch as your loved one goes through the difficult trials throughout the process of getting clean, and subsequently staying clean. Being strong for them is important, but also taking the time to be vulnerable for one’s self is a balance that, if ignored, will undermine the whole process.
Helping an addicted person and their stressors cannot be treated as different from any other stressors in life. There needs to be time for self-care and the expression of vulnerability. In a home with an addicted person, work alongside everyone else in the situation. Create the best schedule so each member is allowed to live on without compromising their own identity and being. Denying that paves the way for the stressors becoming more apparent and less easy to deal with.
For more tips on helping an addicted individual, or for information on how to take the next step with someone who suffers from a substance use disorder, contact The Kimberly Center today at (855) 452-3683. We take a holistic approach to treating substance abuse and related issues, and see medication as a last resort — we prefer to work alongside each individual to help them find their own personal path to recovery. Our evidence-based programs and “do no harm” approach create a unique and proven path to success; each individualized for the particular addiction or mental health concerns afflicting the individual. For more information on our inpatient, outpatient, and continuing care programs, contact The Kimberly Center today.