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Helping a Loved One On The Path To Recovery

Hi Neighbors,

A beautiful home shows the world an image of success and domestic bliss. It invites passers-by to take a sneak peak into our lives and share in our happiness. This broadcasting of happiness and success goes beyond our beautifully appointed rockeries or inviting porches. In the age of social media, each of us is broadcasting a stage managed version of their lives, inviting others to comment on the unceasing parade of perfection that it is to be us.

These pretty affectations can be an insight into who we are but they can also be pretty lies that hide ugly truths. None of us know the tribulations our neighbors endure behind closed doors, whether it’s the heart rending tyranny of spousal abuse, the silent shame of infidelity or the muted catastrophe that is living with addiction.

Picture by By (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

Facing the truth

While it’s a subject nobody wants to talk about openly, addiction is an issue that ruins families and relationships yet our very unwillingness to discuss it often compounds the problem. Addiction to alcohol and narcotics affects roughly one in every ten Americans over the age of twelve to say nothing of the little understood addictions like those to food, gambling, shopping or even exercise that can become extremely unhealthy and socially damaging.

Society’s crime?

As a society we have an unhealthy tendency to blame the victim when it comes to addiction when the evidence suggests that addicts tend not to be fully in control of their behavior. When we think about it, though, our society is extremely conducive to addiction. We have a culture of instant gratification where our senses are continuously overwhelmed with sexually charged glossy images that clamor for our attention and promise a world of pleasure and and success that’s only a purchase away. Many of the products that we’re aggressively advertised such as fast food, sugary drinks, coffee and alcohol are precision engineered to ignite the pleasure centres in our brains, giving us a quick fix that we’re more likely to crave when we’re constantly reminded of it by everything from billboards to online pop up ads.

Help is out there

While there’s no doubt that some addictions are more aggressive and potentially damaging than others, if a loved one falls victim to any sort of addiction it can be difficult to know how to support them. Fortunately there is help out there for them and for you, if you know where to look. Alcoholics Anonymous helps over 2 million people worldwide deal with their struggle against alcohol addiction while clinics like the Orlando Recovery Center use a combination of medical, cognitive and social therapies to help individuals break the habitual behaviors that lead to addiction and relapse. When it comes to your own role in helping an addict through their problems there are a variety of small things you can do to help the person you love and yourself.

Loving someone with an addiction

Addiction can seriously alter people’s behavior. It makes people devious, manipulative and in some cases aggressive. If you love someone with an addiction they will likely lie to your face, get irate and personal when confronted, resort to emotional blackmail or even become physically threatening. In the face of this it can be extremely difficult to look past these traits and see the person that you used to love. Here are some tools to help you help them while retaining your own psychological well being.

Confront the problem

Denial is a common reaction when faced with the unfaceable, we kid ourselves that the person we love will change their behavior if we just give them time and space. The unfortunate truth is that just isn’t going to happen. In order to deal with the situation effectively you have to confront the fact that through this person, part of your life is out of control. You may be confronted by the signs of addiction, like constantly asking for money or regularly retreating into private spaces for long periods of time but you refuse to connect the dots.  Remember that you gain nothing by trying to save face and maintain the status quo. Learning to say “no” and confronting the issue may be the hardest and most important step in the process.

Realize that you cannot ‘fix’ someone with an addiction

As hard as we might try and as much as we might wish it were true, you can’t make someone stop being addicted. Recovery is a very individual and personal thing and you can’t do all the work for them, as much as you might want to (especially if the loved one in question is your son or daughter). They have to forge their own path to recovery and your role is to assist and support that. If you try and do anything else it’s just going to lead to anger, frustration and anxiety on your part.

Check out a local church. Not only may they be able to be a support system for you, many may know of places that can help someone overcome addiction. Even if they are unable to help the person with the addiction, they may be just the support you need.

Blame the addiction, not the addict

Many people who love an addict claim that the person becomes someone else entirely that they don’t even recognize. This is because addiction makes fundamental changes to brain chemistry resulting in extremely upsetting behavior that you would never expect from your loved one. While you may want to better understand how things got so wrong, there’s little to be gained from playing the blame game.


Help without enabling

When we love someone, it’s common to want to curry their favor by trying to make them happy. Addicts are cognizant of this and will try to manipulate it to their own ends. Therefore it’s important to help without enabling. Helping will usually involve some tough love and unpleasant but necessary straight talk while enabling tends to be the giving of money and lying to ourselves about where it will go or turning a blind eye to suspicious activities.

There are no foolproof ways of helping a loved one conquer an addiction, simply ways in which to help the both of you cope and access the help that is out there.


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