Helping a Loved One

One of the most difficult situations as a carer, friend or relative is trying to help a Loved One with addiction. The life of someone we love and care for is going down hill right before our eyes and we see it getting worse unless something is done. Since our addicted Loved One isn’t doing anything about it, we naturally feel the need to help them out. This is potentially a recipe for disaster with most addicts.

Nature Of Addiction

The nature of addiction is a lie we addicts tell ourselves, that a drug or drink or other substance or action will fill the void in us and make us feel whole (if only temporarily). Unfortunately, the hole in us is ever expanding as we become more and more dependent on a drug to feel complete. 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. We will get to the point where we will do virtually anything to take us away from the hell life has become. See more on Addiction.

You Can’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. It’s that the drug has become who they are, their way of life (though who would want it you may ask). An addict feels that the drug has become essential to survival (survival of the next hour, the next day and the next), so, when it comes to making a choice between a Loved One or their ‘drug of choice’, most addicts will choose the drug. The one skill addicts hone to perfection is deception, lying and manipulation in order to get more of their drug. We’ve seen the love of countless family members be used against them 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 (and more importantly what you see). If they voluntarily quit and check themselves into a program, have hope and be there for support. When you insist on seeing solid proof, you’re helping your Loved One understand what it’s going to take. An addict is a natural people pleaser, so asking them for proof of what they have done, may actually help.

Set Solid Boundaries

This is where your help is needed most by an addict, though they won’t see it this way. 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 from 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. Remember, it isn’t love to give a child everything it wants…it’s abuse.

Helping Doesn’t Help. (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 out, helping them get through, 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 things like money, food, clothes or housing, the worst thing you can do is immediately give those things to them. It just makes it easier for them to be an addict. By helping them in this way, you are enabling them to use whatever money they get from other sources (often, Government benefits) to buy their drug. The only way we can help them while they’re using is to let them fall flat on their faces, and reach ‘rock bottom’ (each addict will have their own ’threshold’ of reaching this pain point). Let them feel every bit of the pain and wretchedness their choices have brought upon them. 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 that 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 rock bottom’. We don’t know where the “bottom” is for our Loved Ones. For many, it is the hurt and fear they see in a partner, carer of Loved Ones around them. For others it maybe losing the job, the car, the house, the marriage. 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 will pull you under too.

Don’t You Become Addicted !

One of the less publicised 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. Co-dependency is as serious an addiction as any drug. If you’re helping an addicted loved one, you should take a read of our page on Co-Dependency 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. It’s often easier to give in to the addicts persistent demands than stand your ground and keep to the boundaries. It’s often said, children are the best sales people in the world, “Mum, mum, can I have an Ice cream, mum, mum, I want an ice cream….” The way you express your love for someone can actually be an addiction.

Help that isn’t co-dependent 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. If you manage to get your Loved One into a decent rehab programme they will be told they must be prepared to give up Everything in order to get clean.