Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How Do You Help an Addict?

What do you do when someone you love is in the throws of addiction? Keep in mind that I am not a doctor, psychologist, or therapist {yet!}; but, I will share what I’ve learned from my own experience as an addict. The best way to help someone with an addiction, is to follow these five rules:

1. The only person that you can control in the whole world is YOU. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink – or in this case, not drink. You may be concerned about another person, provide them with resources and knowledge, give them all the love in the world, and plead with them to do something or change what they are doing, but there is no guarantee that they will comply with what you want for them. This is particularly true for addicts. We may physically hear what you say and you can say it a million times, but it may never register in our consciousness or hearts. And even if it does, we may still not do what you want for us. 

The primary focus of your attention and activity should be on the one thing you can control -- YOU - your thoughts, words, and actions. This is where your power lies; and this is where God works!

2. Take care of yourself first. In the pre-flight safety review, flight attendants, for example, tell parents to put on their own oxygen mask before placing one on their child. The reason is simple: the child can’t be helped if the parent passes out! There is no way you stand the chance of helping or influencing another individual if you don’t take care of yourself first. 

Once again, this is particularly true if you are in a relationship with an addict. They will drain you of energy, time, money, and resources if you let them. You must take care of yourself {physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually} or you will have nothing left for you or your loved one!

3. You must set boundaries  - do not enable the addiction. I repeat: you must not enable the addiction! For example, do not bail out the addict financially; do not let them borrow money; do not permit the behavior in your household, etc. Enabling the addicts behavior just roots it more firmly in their brain. He / she must smack his / her ass on the bottom sometimes in order to change! And, setting boundaries not only helps provide this bottom for the addict, but it is part of your own self-care too.

4. Shine the Light in dark places. If you suspect someone you love is in the throws of addiction (alcohol, drug, gambling, sex, etc.), let them know what you observe. For example: “This is your third glass of wine in one hour. You drink too much."; “You have a gambling problem, and it is tearing the family apart.”; “You smoke too much pot; you need help.” 

Though they may deny it, minimize it, get angry, or ignore you, telling the addict what you observe and that you think they need help will plant a seed in their unconscious mind which may well germinate in the future. At very least, it will give them another check mark toward a diagnosis of “addiction” on a Do I Have an Addiction quiz, should they take one in the future! 

5. If you have accepted that ultimately you only have control over yourself, you take care of yourself first, you let the individual know what you observe, and you set boundaries, and still nothing changes, you must accept that the rest is up to the individual and up to God

I think the serenity prayer sums it up best:

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

I know this is a bitter pill to swallow and is easier said than done when you love someone. I promise, though, it is the only way you stand the slightest chance of helping; and it is definitely the only chance you have of maintaining your own health, happiness, and sanity.



AL-ANON - - “Strength and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers.”

GAM-ANON - - “...a 12 Step self-help fellowship of men and women who have been affected by the gambling problem of a loved one. “

Co-dependent No More, by Melody Beattie

The Language of Letting Go, by Melody Beattie

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