Addiction is not an easy journey, both for the person affected and their loved ones. While you may expect to struggle during the active addiction phase, you may not have considered how you will feel after the person has sought help.
This stage can also bring unique challenges and emotions for everyone involved. It is important to understand that healing is not linear, it’s not always smooth sailing. Naturally, you will want to do everything you can to support your loved ones on their recovery journey. During this time, there are a few things you can do to help.
After a person has gone through the active addiction phase, they may decide they are ready to stop using things which are harmful for them. Luckily, addiction is well researched and there are many different methods of treatment. Depending on the substance, or severity of the addiction, a person may opt for support groups or a rehab centre. Whichever treatment your loved one has chosen to heal their addiction, this will be a challenging time for them.
Put Yourself First
While it may seem counterintuitive, the best way you can help anyone is by first helping yourself. When you are in touch with your own needs, only then can you help others. Just as aeroplane safety instructions advise that you put your oxygen mask on first, so too should you do this when helping others in life. Having a loved one suffer from addiction can cause many issues in their lives, and without proper boundaries, in your life as well. Addiction can wreak havoc on a person financially, emotionally, and physically. It can even cause them to get involved in legal trouble. It can be tempting to try and save your loved ones from their pain, but unfortunately, it is something only they can do for themselves. It is especially important to take care of your mental well-being as having a loved one suffer from addiction can cause you to have anxiety or depression as well. When you do this, you will be mentally equipped to support them when they are ready to support themselves.
Remember Addiction is an Illness
In a stressful environment, it can be difficult to remember that addiction is a chronic illness. Someone struggling with addiction may do things that cause you immense pain. While you should set boundaries to protect yourself, and limit contact if necessary, it is also helpful to remember that they are not monsters. Those suffering from addiction are struggling too and addiction can overwhelm a person’s sense of reason. In the initial stages, try not to alienate the person struggling so that when they need help they can ask for it. When your loved one successfully seeks intervention for their disease, you can tell them how their behaviour has impacted you and offer support.
Knowledge is Power
Addiction is an illness that is largely misunderstood. Luckily, nowadays it is widely researched and this research has added clarity. No matter what stage of addiction your loved one is at, the more you know; the better. Try to approach your research of substance use disorder for your benefit, rather than the benefit of your loved one. During their intervention, they will learn about their addiction and their triggers. Educating yourself on this disorder can help you better understand addiction, how to support your loved one, and how to protect yourself.
Love Is Not Enough
Many loved ones of people struggling with depression may think, or say, “if they loved me they wouldn’t abuse drugs/alcohol”. Unfortunately, addiction is much more powerful than a person’s individual feelings. It does not mean they don’t love you, it just means they are struggling with something much bigger than they can handle alone. Rather than using love as a weapon or as a method of invoking guilt, save it for supporting your loved one in their recovery process. That is when they will need it the most.
Support Vs Enabling
There is a big difference between supporting someone through their addiction and enabling their behaviour. Support can look like; helping them find a job or continuing their education when they are in recovery. Enabling is giving someone money even if they relapse, or cleaning up their legal troubles. While you may be well-intentioned, you could end up hurting their recovery. This is another reason why having boundaries with your loved one is crucial to your support role.
Allow Them To Make Their Own Mistakes
As tempting as it can be to try and take control over their life, remember this is a journey they must walk alone. Your role is to give love and emotional support during this difficult phase of your loved one’s life. Your role is not to protect them from every difficult decision they may be faced with.
There Is No Cure For Addiction
While there is no cure for addiction, there are many ways it is managed. It is important to remember that your loved one is never fully ‘in the clear’ and this is a lifelong illness. Statistically, in the first year of recovery, 2 out of 3 recovering addicts are likely to relapse. However, over time the possibility of relapse drops drastically. In fact, many people recover and never abuse a substance again in their lives, so it is important not to lose hope. If your loved one relapses, it does not mean they are weak. It simply means they need to adjust their treatment.
The Light At The End of The Tunnel
We are fortunate to live in a time when addiction is recognized as a chronic illness. Furthermore, through addiction research, many innovative and effective treatment methods have been created. The most important thing to take from supporting your loved one through this journey is to protect yourself first and foremost. When you are strong, healthy, and happy, you are the best support system you can be. There are also treatment methods to help families and loved ones who are affected by addiction and these options can be very supportive. Addiction affects so many people and families worldwide. You are not alone on your journey.