Alcohol and drug dependency can be isolating for the 19.7 million Americans intimately familiar with the struggle. The sometimes selfish nature of the disease convinces individuals that it should be handled alone because it’s a personal battle. This can fuel guilt, shame, and even desperation that provides little incentive for individuals to seek help. Worse yet, they may believe they’re undeserving of aid or convinced it’s a non-issue. On the other hand, family members and friends experience a different hardship–one that’s similarly isolating. Helping someone with addiction begins with honesty, but what’s the best approach for successful outcomes?
Recognizing Care: Relationships & Addiction
Life is complex, and battling with substance abuse and dependency creates a unique dynamic that negatively impacts the person using and those close to the issue.
Hiding bad habits from loved ones is a common reality within family dynamics. Understandably, a person experiencing alcohol or drug abuse may not want to worry or upset people they love. But as an addiction spirals out of control, it can leave the user and family members feeling lost and alone.
Basics of Addiction
Addiction specialists have found that treating substance abuse is best done from a holistic and evidence-based approach that incorporates every person involved, not just the user. The fact is, life is a collaborative process. It’s critical to understanding the impacts of addiction and working through certain mental health factors on behalf of the person battling the disease and assisting those in helping someone with an addiction–namely, family members.
However, the act of supporting someone through addiction can be demanding and incredibly taxing. For one, most family members have minimal personal experience with drug use and therefore may not fully understand how this disease can take hold of a person’s life so completely.
Many people don’t understand why or how a person becomes addicted to alcohol or drugs. They may mistakenly assume that it’s a lack of ethics, moral principles, or lack of willpower and that a person may simply stop at any time. The realities of addiction demonstrate that these myths exacerbate substance abuse problems rather than work to resolve them. Factors that can impact addiction include:
- Environmental influences
- Mental Health
Support vs. Enabling: Helping Someone with Addiction
Once someone has decided to engage in recovery, it’s critical to support that person without enabling their addictive behaviors.
Support is not enabling. Helping someone with an addiction means understanding their drug use is not a character flaw or an excuse. It’s a disease that impacts the mind and body and can have a lasting impact for years to come. Still, from a family member’s perspective, witnessing addiction and its effects can be its own form of abuse. Learn more on support vs. enabling here.
Enabling, when spelled out, may seem obvious. However, addiction occurs differently in every person. It’s often a gradual disease that takes time to increase in severity. Enabling a person with substance abuse disorder (SUD) may not be evident, but rather a progression that becomes commonplace. Common enabling behaviors include:
- Making excuses
- Shameful comments
- Invitations to use
- Ignoring an individual when asking for help
Enabling and using non-supportive behaviors can have drastic impacts on the victim, family and friends managing substance abuse. Helping someone with addiction begins with the basic principle of support and care.
What Are Supportive Behaviors?
First and foremost, when supporting a partner or family member who is in active addiction to alcohol or other drugs, it’s critically important to ensure that personal obligations and needs are met first. Taking care of your well-being allows you to better aid someone in the journey to recovery. Psychology Today notes that this is a “balancing act of offering support to your loved one in navigating the treatment and recovery options available, while at the same time not losing sight of what you need to be happy and healthy.”
Supporting works differently than enablement as it holds the person accountable for their actions and choices regarding alcohol or drug use. By being supportive, the individual dealing with addiction can feel empowered, confident, and motivated to start a healthy lifestyle and define sobriety for themselves.
Physicians and counselors often consider supportive family and friends to be a resilience factor that can help individuals avoid relapse. Resiliency factors are those areas in life that will help develop safe coping strategies and proper expression of emotions without the use of alcohol or other drugs. The more resiliency factors one reports are often correlated with higher success rates and fewer relapses.
Other supportive measures to consider include a sense of purpose, community, and self-esteem. Common supportive behaviors include:
- Being open and honest
- Becoming an active listener
- Asking appropriate and clarifying questions
- Developing sober routines
- Eliminating judgments
- Maintaining accountability
Simply trying to connect and relate to the issues a loved one may be experiencing is beneficial. Unfortunately, navigating unfamiliar terrain regarding drug abuse is not always easy. There may be varying degrees of anger and resentment toward the problem. Finding a recovery center that addresses family-specific concerns is essential. Learn more about AspenRidge’s Family Program here.
Helping Someone with Addiction: Resources
AspenRidge has developed a continuum of care for those struggling with alcohol or other drug use. AspenRidge uses an evidence-based,holistic approach and is dedicated to tailoring treatment to match individual and family needs.
Supportive family and friends are critical to maintaining sobriety, and our addiction specialists can help you navigate these complexities. You may also find some helpful resources from previous blogs as well as community support centers nearby. Learn more:
- How to Talk to a Family Member About Their Drinking
- Why Do People Use Drugs?
- Codependency and Addiction
- Addiction Resources for Family Members
Colorado Addiction Support: AspenRidge Recovery
If you or a family member needs help, please reach out to us for a free confidential assessment at 855-281-5588.