Loving the Addicted: How to Help Without Enabling

Loving the Addicted: How to Help Without Enabling

It hurts to watch someone you love struggle with addiction. As a concerned family member or friend, perhaps the hardest part is knowing a loved one needs help but not knowing how to give it. You don’t want to make things worse, but standing idly by is too painful to bear. If you care about someone with a substance abuse problem and want to make a positive difference, The Salina Sun shares where to start.

Reaching Out

When someone you care about has an addiction, reaching out is the first step in helping. Wait until your loved one is sober and calm to broach the topic. During your discussion, identify the behaviors that concern you but avoid judgment. Placing blame puts the other person on the defensive so they’re less likely to listen.

Recognize that while you see the substance abuse as a problem, the person you’re reaching out to might not — and you can’t force a person to change if they’re not ready or willing. American Addiction Centers advise not to guilt-trip, preach, bribe, or threaten; doing so is more likely to push the person away than drive them to seek help. If your loved one isn’t receptive to your outreach, the best you can do is leave the offer of help open and avoid enabling their addiction.

Avoiding Enabling

Enabling is what happens when your actions make it easier for another person to continue in their addiction. This includes actions such as providing money and other resources, making excuses for them at school or work, or bailing them out when they get in legal trouble. It also includes more nuanced behaviors including covering up an addict’s mistakes, putting their needs ahead of your own and ignoring behavior that crosses boundaries.

Often, enabling feels like helping. You don’t want your loved one to be homeless due to addiction, so you offer a place to live. You don’t want them to go hungry, so you lend a few dollars here and there. But enabling not only fails to help an addicted person, it’s also bad for you.

Accessing Treatment

If your loved one is receptive to your outreach, one way you can help is by connecting them with affordable addiction treatment. There’s no one right way to get clean from drug or alcohol addiction, but many people find success with these treatment and recovery resources:

In addition to getting treatment for substance abuse, many people with addictions also need treatment for co-occurring mental health issues. Such conditions could have driven a person to use drugs or alcohol or may have developed over the course of an individual’s addiction. Either way, SAMHSA identifies treating co-occurring mental health disorders as a key component of addiction treatment.

If your loved one doesn’t have health insurance, help them to look into your state’s subsidized programs. The Affordable Care Act prompted states to provide more accessible healthcare options to residents and many of these programs are quite affordable. It’s important that your loved one has coverage so that they can take advantage of the best possible treatment options for them.

Supporting Lasting Change

The battle isn’t over once a person is clean and sober. Maintaining sobriety for life requires changing one’s lifestyle so the factors that lead to drug or alcohol addiction no longer determine all their choices.

If substances were used as an escape from personal problems, and this is frequently the case, finding healthier ways to cope with life’s stresses is essential.  Many people who have experienced addiction find success using exercise to manage stress, but concerned loved ones shouldn’t underestimate the value of social support. When a person has family and friends they can lean on, they’re more likely to report feeling supported and accountable to their recovery. For concerned family and friends, that means that being there after detox or the initial treatment is just as important as encouraging recovery in the first place.

Be the Support They Need

You can’t solve another person’s problems for them. As much as we want to help a person with addiction stay safe, protecting them from the consequences of their behavior only enables their problems to grow worse. However, you can make a difference in the life of an addicted person by helping them recognize the problem, access treatment and maintain a sober lifestyle into the future.

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Lora Fielding

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