Supporting a loved one with addiction

If you have a loved one struggling with addiction, you probably feel overwhelmed and at a loss as to the best way you can support them.

When a person suffers from an addiction, they experience negative repercussions physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and even socially. However, they are not the only ones that reap the devastation of this lifestyle.

An addiction will test any relationship. As we approach Valentine’s Day and reflect on our closest loving relationships, remaining honest and strong with each other becomes even more challenging if there’s an addiction involved.

Dual impact

Yes, you must be mindful and compassionate about trying to help them overcome their addiction. Not only does it help them to have a greater chance of recovery, but it helps to ensure that you can regain your own measure of balance.

The more you’re aware of this dual impact, the greater the capacity of assistance, support and care that you can give. In helping yourself to heal, you are providing yourself with greater strength to support your loved one, which benefits you both.

Mind yourself to help them

Addiction is not a one-way street and this is true on two levels. Firstly, an addiction does not only affect the person that is suffering from it and secondly, an addiction does not have to result in a person’s life being over.

When your loved one transgresses from substance/alcohol misuse, breaching into abuse and then to full-fledged addiction, they’ve likely disrupted your life in numerous ways along this treacherous path. As a result, you may have developed a host of negative emotions and mindsets towards yourself and them.

Blame and shame

These negative emotions include blame, shame, anger, fear, loneliness, doubt and even grief. As you watch someone fall prey to addiction, you might experience an extreme sense of loss, related to your perceived demise of your family, hopes and dreams.

Learning to combat these emotions can grant you the forgiveness, perspective and perseverance that are required to help your partner recover. Additionally, when they see you taking positive and proactive steps, they might begin to feel more inspired that they can do the same.

Learn more about addiction

Yes, you’ve witnessed the impact and devastation of the addiction first-hand, but do you really understand the complexity that’s behind it? Understanding how their particular addiction impacts a person’s body and brain – and how they manifest in a person’s behaviour – can help you to better gauge what’s going on in your loved one’s life.

This can help you to have conversations that might prove effective both in supporting and understanding their situation – two things that can help overcome denial and accept treatment.

Stage an intervention

Intervention is a professionally directed education process, resulting in a face-to-face meeting of family members, friends and/or employer with the person in trouble with alcohol or drugs.

One thing you’ll note here is the concept of “professionally directed”. One common misconception is that an intervention has to be led by a family member. Though it is important that family members be involved, having a family member plan for and lead an intervention may actually create an atmosphere that is not optimally conducive to success.

Why is this? There are many emotions that can arise when you watch someone you love fall prey to an addiction. Within an intervention, they can be both stumbling blocks and a catalyst towards the tension and blame that can potentially derail an intervention. This is not to say that, at times, a family-led intervention cannot be successful, rather that choosing the aid of a professional interventionist is more likely to succeed.

Root out enabling behaviours

An addiction changes lives and as that occurs, loved ones may knowingly or unknowingly enable by adapting their behaviour.

An example includes giving a person financial support, even though you know that the money will likely go to fuel their addiction. You might do this out of fear, worried that they won’t be able to take care of their basic needs without it, or that they might turn to illegal means – putting them in the face of even more dangers and risks.

What you must understand is the role of responsibility. You are not responsible for their actions or choices, however, you can engage them in a responsible manner. Some people may call this ‘tough love’, but you need to detach yourselves a bit and learn that you can love them in a more proactive way.

This will be difficult, as you will have to witness your loved one confronting the at-times overwhelming results of their addiction, but remember, these moments can help them to better understand the necessity of finding strength, hope and help.

Integrating family support and treatment

A person with an addiction has a better chance at both obtaining sobriety and maintaining their recovery, if they have a supportive foundation. If an individual chooses, they can integrate their family into their treatment.

Recovery is a journey, one that takes continued work and focus. A person has a greater chance of success if their family understands this and the many dynamics behind both the addiction and the recovery process.

Tabor Group

At Tabor Group, we have a family support group set up and designed to guide family members and loved ones through the tough times when someone is in treatment and/or striving for recovery. Contact the Family Programme on 021 488 7110.

Our Family Support Services include:

  • One to one family meetings in Tabor Lodge
  • Four week family programme at Tabor Lodge
  • Family support groups in Cork City
  • Intervention advice and support
  • Referrals to other agencies

Tabor Group is a leading provider of residential addiction treatment services in Ireland. We provide support and care to hundreds of clients suffering from addictions to alcohol, substances, gambling and eating disorders. For more information on Tabor Group’s services, click here.