Loving an Addict or Alcoholic: How to Help Someone With Addiction

How you can help their addiction

Facing addiction is a relentless struggle, and when it’s someone you care deeply about, their battle becomes your own. Addiction is often called a “family illness” because when one member suffers, it affects all their loved ones too. Watching your loved one go through this can be incredibly difficult but don’t lose heart. Recovery is possible and achievable with the right understanding, approach, and professional help. This guide will help unravel the complexity of addiction and will arm you with strategies to aid your loved one and help them transform their life.

Loving an addict or alcoholic - loving support

What is addiction?

Before we discuss how to help someone with addiction, educating yourself on its causes and symptoms is crucial. This will enable you to provide support and love from a place of knowledge.

Addiction is a serious issue that can have a profound impact on your loved one’s life. It is a complex chronic brain disorder that is characterised by compulsive substance use or behaviours, even in the face of harmful consequences. This means that addiction actually changes the brain’s structure and function, creating intense cravings for the substance or behaviour and loss of control over its use. This is why your loved one continues to use substances or engage in addictive behaviours.

While it may be obvious that their behaviour is causing harm to themselves and those close to them, in addiction, it is important to address the common occurrence of denial during the initial recovery phase, understanding that individuals may initially struggle to acknowledge their addiction and its impact.

We advise you not to see your loved one as weak or flawed; addiction is a genuine illness, not a matter of choice, willpower or morality. You can approach your loved one with greater empathy and compassion by understanding this.

How to encourage professional treatment

Persuading your loved one to seek professional treatment is the best way to help with addiction. Addiction is an incredibly challenging condition to overcome alone, but a professional rehab centre like Recovery Lighthouse can provide effective treatment and help your loved one overcome addiction for good.

Take the time to have a heartfelt conversation with your loved one, expressing your genuine concerns about their addiction. Share with them the valuable resources we have on addiction, detox, and rehab, and enlighten them about the positive effects that can be achieved through treatment. Offer to be their support system by attending any doctor’s appointments and accompanying them to support groups.

How to set boundaries when supporting an addict in recovery

Setting boundaries and differentiating between support and enabling are crucial but challenging elements when assisting someone with addiction. For instance, repeatedly bailing them out of trouble, neglecting your needs to cater to theirs or denying the problem are all forms of enabling their alcohol or drug abuse.

Instead, establish clear boundaries that protect your well-being and convey the seriousness of the situation. For example, be firm about not tolerating substance use in your presence, and don’t offer financial aid so they obtain substances such as alcohol or drugs; this includes paying for things they can’t afford due to substance use.

While it may be hard initially, enabling your loved one will only fuel their addiction and prevent them from reaching out for help.

How to look after yourself and avoid codependency

Co-dependency occurs when an individual excessively prioritises the needs and challenges of their loved one grappling with addiction, often neglecting their own well-being. Recognising this potential dynamic is crucial for establishing a balanced and healthy relationship, enabling you to offer the necessary support for their recovery journey.

Consider seeking support for yourself through therapy, counselling or support groups for families of addicts, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. These spaces offer a community of individuals facing similar challenges and can provide emotional support, advice and strategies to navigate this difficult journey. Therapists and counsellors can also provide strategies to establish healthier patterns if your relationship is becoming codependent.

Maintaining your physical and mental health are also crucial. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep can boost your energy levels, improve your mood and help you better cope with stress. All of this will give you the strength and motivation to support your loved one in recovery.

Loving an addict or alcoholic - co-dependency

Why is the support of loved ones so important?

For several reasons, the support of loved ones can be the single most powerful weapon in the battle against addiction. Your support can:

Show your loved one they are not alone…

When someone is battling addiction, they often feel isolated and misunderstood. Your understanding and non-judgemental support can help an alcoholic or drug-addicted loved one know that you will be by their side whatever happens.

Help break resistance to treatment…

One of the major obstacles in the recovery journey is the resistance to seek help. This may come from denial, fear of treatment or a lack of confidence. Your encouragement can make a huge difference in supporting an addict to get the help they need. You can also participate in family treatment options such as family therapy and conjoints which Recovery Lighthouse offers to all our clients’ loved ones.

Provide emotional support…

The journey to recovery is fraught with emotional challenges, with many people experiencing fear, shame, guilt and frustration. Your emotional support can provide a safe space for your loved one to express these feelings without fearing judgement. Make yourself available to listen to their concerns and be there for them at every stage of the recovery process.

Help your loved one maintain sobriety…

Long-term recovery from addiction is not just about achieving sobriety but maintaining it. This process requires a complete lifestyle overhaul which can be incredibly challenging. However, your continued support can motivate your loved one to stick to their sobriety goals and help to identify early signs of a potential relapse. You can then work with your loved one to adjust their recovery plan and help them get back on track.

The role of patience and perseverance

Patience and perseverance are incredibly important when you are trying to help an alcoholic or a loved one with another type of addiction. Recovery is a lengthy, non-linear process, and it is common for people to encounter setbacks or relapses along the journey.

While this might be discouraging, it is vital to remember that relapse is not a sign of failure but an indication that the treatment approach needs adjustment. Continue to support your loved one through such setbacks, and your patience and perseverance can reinforce their motivation to keep striving towards recovery.

How to help your loved one into treatment

If your loved one is struggling with addiction, the sooner they reach out for professional help, the sooner they can transform their life. Recovery Lighthouse can provide the necessary treatment and support for you and your loved one to overcome addiction and rebuild meaningful relationships. Don’t hesitate to contact us for both your loved one and yourself. Your love, patience and support can provide the strength they need to overcome the obstacles of recovery and build a bright new future.