Loving an addict is one of the hardest things you will ever do. It's a struggle. It's one-sided. It's gut-wrenching. It's scary. It's sleepless nights. It's fearful days. But it's not something you have to do alone. There are as many people out there who love addicts are there are those who are addicted.
Here are a few steps they all use to help see them through the tough times, as shared by Clinical Counsellor Candace Plattor.
1. Come Face-to-face With Reality
Believing that things will magically get better is a lovely thought, but it's far from the truth. As Plattor says, "Learning how to deal with reality is the most important first step in 'surviving' when you love an addicted person."
2. Discover How to Love an Addicted Person and Stay Healthy
Learning how to set and maintain appropriate boundaries is a very important skill, Plattor says. She suggests learning to say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no. And don't let yourself fall apart in the process.
3. You cannot control or "fix" another person, so stop trying.
Plattor says, "The only person you have any control over is yourself. You do not have control over anything the addicted person does." Remember that. There is only so much you can do. She suggests making the serenity prayer a part of your mantra:
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.
4. Stop Blaming the Other Person and Become Willing to Look at Yourself
"Even though the addict has undoubtedly contributed his or her share of the trouble, in some way you also have a part to play in what is going on. For example, you might be keeping the drama going by lending money to your addicted loved one," she says. Look at how you are contributing to the situation, assess and do what's best for not just you but them in the long run.
5. Learn the Difference Between Helping and Enabling
You might think you are helping, to prevent this person from winding up in a worse situation, but what you are doing is enabling them. "When you try to help addicts by giving them money, allowing them to stay in your home, buying food for them on a regular basis or driving them places - you are actually engaging in rescuing behaviors that are not really helpful," she says.
6. Don't Give in to Manipulation
Plattor warns, "When addicts are not ready to change, they become master manipulators in order to keep the addiction going." Don't be shocked if you find the person suffering from addiction turns to lying, cheating, rage, blame, depression or even physical illness.
7. Ask Yourself the Magic Question
Plattor also reminds you to heed this warning, "It is important to understand that you might be just as addicted to your enabling behaviors as the addict in your life is to his or her manipulations. You are going to have to step outside of your comfort zone. It's OK to put yourself first. It's OK to practice healthy behaviors. It doesn't make you selfish." Self-caring, as she points out, "means that you respect yourself enough to take good care of yourself in healthy and holistic ways such as making sure your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs are met."
8. Rebuild Your Own Life
Plattor suggests, "If your life seems empty in any areas such as career, relationships or self-care, begin to rebuild your life by exploring the kinds of things that might fulfill you." Consider a career change. Maybe go back to school. This will help keep the focus on you and not your own addictive behaviors of fixing the person in need.
9. Don't Wait Until the Situation is Really Bad.
Reach Out for Help Now Join a group. Find support. See a therapist. You don't have to go it alone. No one expects you to. Finding like-minded people will help you relate and give you a sense of community.
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