Dealing with an addicted loved one is one of the most emotionally painful experiences you will encounter.
You think that by doing things for them like giving them a place to live and making sure they have food, you’re helping them. You think that as long as you help, someday they will get better. Well I have learned that just isn’t the case. When someone is in active drug use, their only focus is on getting their drug, using their drug, and figuring out how they can get their next fix before they start to withdraw.
When you find out your loved one is struggling with an addiction, you start on a journey.
You begin by thinking, “How can I fix that person? How can I talk sense into them? How do I make them see they are ruining their life?” I believe that this only works for a very small percentage of that population of drug users —if it was that easy to just stop, they would.
The majority of us, after getting hung up on the first part of the journey, realize you can love a person with addiction, but you must not enable their sickness.
How can you love someone without enabling their sickness?
You give them information about local rehabs, shelters they can go to when they find themselves without a place to live, resources to keep them alive like going to Health and Human Services for food stamps. It is important to remember that giving them this information does not mean making the phone calls for them. This means they have to figure out how to do it themselves. Dealing with what their life has become without help is really eye opening for most people struggling with addiction.
It is one of the most difficult things you can do, but it is necessary. If you do everything for them, they can just take their drugs, eat, sleep, and let you handle the rest.
Navigating what kind of relationship you can have with your loved one is also tough.
Whether it be your sibling, child, or friend who has addiction, you have to have boundaries. Giving money to someone struggling with addiction is the last thing you want to do. Depending on your relationship with that person, you may want to invite them over for dinner to see how they are or maybe let them take a shower, but you have to stand strong and keep the boundaries alive at all times.
I have attended support groups with my mom throughout the years, and a phrase I have heard over the years is, “You love them through it.” Let them know you will always love them, but you need to set certain boundaries so that you are not being taken advantage of by the disease.
The journey is a tough one for you and your loved one, and it is important to remember that loving someone will not take away their addiction. Seeking support in your community is a great way to learn how to better navigate addiction. You’ll be surprised how much support is out there!