Loving an addict is a bewildering experience. It takes a long time to realize and accept that one cannot “love an addict into recovery.” Usually, family members assume that because they love us, and know us more intimately than anyone else, they have a privileged understanding of our addiction. Sadly, it is not so. If you love an addict you are more vulnerable to being lied to and manipulated. Over time, you may even show certain behavioral “symptoms.” Our loved ones tried to bribe, cajole, and bully us into recovery; all the while knowing that if we could not control our using, there was little chance that they could. Fear of death can become so all-consuming that loved ones may permit the addict to do things – like use drugs in the home – that would have been unimaginable just a short time before. In short, a loved one’s addiction can render you unrecognizable to yourself. Such is the destructive power of alcoholism and drug addiction.
Here are some tips for loved ones from our drug addiction treatment center:
- Take care of yourself. This is the best thing you can do for your addict. If you are chronically overtired and stressed, you will not be able meet the challenges coming at you. We recommend that you do whatever is necessary to manage your stress response. This may include prayer, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, or nature walks. Something somatic that brings you to relaxation. Do it regularly.
- Find support. It is imperative that you enlist the support of people you can trust. This can be anyone: relative, best friend, therapist, or Al Anon sponsor. It is important that you take accurate stock of your liabilities. Are you too soft? Are you too quick to provide financial support? Do you let your addict manipulate you? When cobbling a strategy, you should enlist the help of your support system. For example, if you know you should not let your addict stay with you but cannot seem to say “no”, tell them that you may need help in following through with your plan.
- Do not automatically defer to the professionals or other “authorities.” There are many “schools of recovery”; consumers are often confused by contradictory viewpoints and/or recommendations. Talk to different people and compare what they say with your experience of your loved one’s addiction. Stick with those folks who steer you in the right direction. And remember, advanced degrees and licenses do not always guarantee talent or integrity.
- Go with your gut. Addicts lie. In fact when they are using it is almost impossible for them to tell the truth. An active addict or alcoholic is not a reliable dialogue partner. So always go with your gut. Too often our loved one feel one way but think another. Their guts say, “this isn’t right” but their heads tell them to “give the boy the benefit of the doubt.” If you look back, you will probably notice that your gut was right the vast majority of the time.
- Talk to your addict about his/her recovery. The more you know and understand about addiction and recovery, the better equipped you will be to deal with the uncertainties of early recovery. Recovery is about healing relationships; that can only occur where there is vulnerability and communication.
The staff at Rockland Recovery has extensive experience working with the families of addicts and alcoholics in recovery. If you want to be part of an ever-growing community of addicts, alcoholics, and their loved ones please contact us. We are here to help.