It seems like we all know someone who struggles with drug or alcohol consumption – a father, child, aunt, or close friend. And often, when we have someone dealing with substance use and addiction in our lives, it’s our natural tendency to want to help.
Addiction destroys families as much as it destroys individuals. At times, it can seem so overwhelming that it would be easier to ignore it and hope it goes away. But in the long run, denying it or minimizing it will be more damaging to you, other family members and friends, and the person you are concerned about.
“Substance use and addiction are complex problems, with many related issues,” Catherine Hoich, LPC, CAC III, manager of co-occurring services at Jefferson Center said. She offers some helpful suggestions. “It can be very difficult to set boundaries or tell someone you love that if they continue to drink or drug you can’t support that.”
Stand your ground
Don’t let the addicted person draw you into using drugs or alcohol with him or her. Also, don’t let him convince you that you’re wrong for seeing the problem.
Learn all you can about addiction. It can be overwhelming and scary, but understanding is truly the first step in being supportive. Find resources and support groups to assist you.
Don’t wait for someone to hit rock bottom. Although you may be met with excuses, denial or anger, approach them early on. And trust your gut; you are in a better position to be objective than they are. If you think they have a problem with drugs or alcohol, you are probably right.
If possible, stand by the person struggling with addiction. It’s possible you may need to remove yourself (or children) from the situation, but letting the person know you support him or her and their recovery is important.
Offer support, while maintaining a boundary
Talk to the person about your concerns and offer your help and support, including your willingness to go with them to get help. Do not provide excuses or cover up for the loved one who is struggling with addiction. Although it is difficult to see a loved one suffer negative consequences, they can be powerful motivators in taking the next steps to recovery.
Additionally, self-care is incredibly important, as caring for and being supportive of your loved one may be exhausting at times. Here are some tips to consider:
- Avoid self-blame: You can’t control another person’s decisions and you can’t force them to change.
- Be an example: Try not to do things for the addict, but instead show him or her balance and self-care.
- Ask for help: Talk to a professional or go to a support group.
- Take a break: You can’t always be there every second of the day for that person. Make sure you take some time for yourself too. If needed, seek your own support through community groups such as Al Anon or the Jefferson Center Family Program. Attending a support group can make all the difference during this challenging time.
- Try to remain positive but realistic: Negativity may only increase their feelings of guilt and feed into their thoughts of giving up. But problems with substance use often require many attempts on the road to success. Try not to feel defeated if your loved one promises to address the problem yet the problem persists. Encourage them to try again.
Supporting a loved one with addiction is difficult, but it can be done. If you’d like to speak to an addictions counselor at Jefferson Center, please contact us at 720-815-7816.
Shannon Gwash is the Director of Wellness Services for Jefferson Center and is also a Certified Mayo Clinic Wellness Coach. She earned her MS from the University of Denver in Strategic Health Communications/Behavior Change. She has nearly 10 years of experience in the communication world and nearly three in parenting … which clearly makes her an expert there. To stay sane, she runs around Sloan’s Lake, hikes with her daughter, enjoys outdoor concerts and reads nerdy books.