From time to time, encouraging stories will pop up in the news or on social media, detailing a person’s excruciating battle against cancer or catastrophic injury. Often times, the survivor or his family will talk about their willingness to fight the illness or injury; crediting determination in their healing.
But what about when a loved one is battling addiction? When a loved one not only refuses help – but rejects the idea that there is even a problem?
In an ideal situation, a person struggling with addiction would willingly arrive at a drug or alcohol treatment center, cognizant of their disease, and energized in their fight to get well and on the road to recovery. In dealing with addiction, however, you may have noticed, things are rarely ideal.
Chances are, instead of your loved one is willing and ready to face their challenge, you are faced with resistance, excuses, and denial.
Your situation with an addicted loved one may be far from ideal, but you are not helpless.
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There are many people who will argue that the only person who can help an addicted person – is the addicted person. Often we hear, “Addicted people have to want to quit.”
I am here to tell you that few people who arrive at treatment do so with a kick in their step, a positive attitude, and an overwhelming desire to quit drinking or drugging. In the midst of their darkest days and most difficult season of their lives – it’s especially difficult for a person in active addiction to be willing into change.
So does an addicted person have to have the ‘want to’ when it comes to recovery?
Yes. But, they don’t have to have the ‘want to’ before they get to rehab. They can develop that desire at their treatment facility.
Think about it. There are many ways in which an addicted person arrives at treatment; court order, hospitalization, loss of child custody, divorce, some states have protective laws like Casey’s Law. In these situations, many people in active addiction arrive at a rehab facility out of force – and as they learn about their disease and begin developing skills, begin to understand and desire help.
Even in the circumstances where entering treatment isn’t voluntary, it is possible for a change of mindset and heart.
What About Family and Friends?
If a loved one is struggling with addiction, there are ways to help – even if he or she is unwilling to change.
Study Up On Addiction.
Denial and misinformation are major contributors to continued addiction. Does not knowing enough about addiction or enabling make you dumb? Absolutely not. The fact is, addiction is difficult and confusing – even for those who have seen it before.
You do better when you know better – which is why it’s crucial that you understand that your loved one is sick with the progressive disease of addiction; he or she is not a bad person. With any disease, once diagnosed, it’s important for the family to do their research and understand what’s really going on – and what can be done to treat it.
Take the time to learn about drug and alcohol addiction through reliable resources, support groups or meetings, even a therapist or counselor who specializes in addictive behaviors. Doing so will not only help you to heal but will also help set the stage for helping your loved one.
Healthy relationships start with healthy boundaries: No matter how much you love someone, no matter what your relationship, you are separate human beings.
But, boundaries aren’t just the key to creating healthy relationships, they’re also key to initiating change. With boundaries, you’ll be able to detach from the chaos of addiction and see the situation and disease for what it really is; you’ll be able to mentally separate your loved one from his or her addiction; you’ll be able to reclaim your self-respect and set healthy examples for your family.
Take a look at the seven boundaries we recommend setting when a loved one is addicted, and give your addicted loved one a reason to seek help.
We live in a fast-paced society that often instills that self-care is selfish. While self-care may sound irrational when a loved one is suffering, it’s actually one of the most important steps.
When someone you love is sick, hurting, or in harm’s way, it can feel like second nature to allow your own needs, goals, and life to take a back seat. You may sacrifice your health, your sleep, your job, or the rest of your family – without even noticing (or caring). It may feel like none of those things matter if you loved one isn’t well.
Getting off of the emotional roller coaster won’t be easy, but it’s necessary. The only way you can help your loved one is to be healthy yourself.
Stop Accommodating The Disease.
As you well know, addiction doesn’t just affect the person drinking or drugging. Addiction affects everyone in the home, in the family, and in friendships. Addiction can progress within these relationships and in turn, make everyone sick. Those who are around addiction long enough will often make accommodations for its presence, sometimes without evening realizing it.
Think about it: Have you ever “covered” for your loved one by making excuses for their behaviors? Ever adjusted your work schedule based on your loved one’s drinking patterns? Locked up valuables when they’re around? Avoided family functions out of fear you’d be embarrassed by your loved one’s actions? These are just a few examples of what accommodation looks like. When you stop giving addiction the air it needs to breathe, eventually, things will have to change.