What Not to Do When Helping a Loved One Through Addiction

By Staff Reporter - 20 Jul '21 11:09AM
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  • What Not to Do When Helping a Loved One Through Addiction
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Addiction is a tricky disorder to navigate. It requires lifestyle and behavioral adjustments for the addict-and their loved ones.

Witnessing a loved one fight addiction is incredibly tough, but there are ways that you can help. However, with many online resources discussing how you should support your loved one, it can sometimes be overwhelming. There is so much information on how you can help, but they rarely discuss what you shouldn't be doing. 

That's why we have decided to look at it from a different angle. The following are all things you shouldn't do when supporting a loved one with an addiction. Let's jump in. 

Don't Ignore the Finer Details

Empathy is integral here. You need to know or at least understand what a loved one is going through to support them to the best of your ability. However, this goes deeper than listening to their personal account alone. 

Of course, listening to them and understanding their perspective is imperative, but your own education can prove highly beneficial. Searching online for 'what are the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal' or researching the various recovery options are both great ways to educate yourself. 

Being an informed support system will allow you to provide greater empathy and understanding, both things your loved one will need. Don't skimp on the crucial details. 

Don't Criticize or Shame Them

Addiction can be incredibly frustrating for both the sufferer and their families. It is especially challenging if you feel your loved one has been making progress, only to relapse and return to 'square one'. However, shame is never an effective motivator, and excessive criticism can fracture your relationship. 

Though it may sometimes feel impossible, you must exert patience to truly support your loved one, especially when they slip up. Addiction is a disease, and they are not to blame for it. Tough love has its strengths, but don't confuse tough love with unnecessary criticism. 

Don't Enable Their Behavior

As is the case with most things, balance is key. While you shouldn't be too strict or overly critical of someone who is suffering, you can't coddle them either. You need to outline boundaries and insist that the addict respect them. If they can't, the behavior will never stop.

Enabling can come in all shapes and sizes, to the point where you may not even recognize that you're doing it. One of the most common enabling behaviors is financial support, especially when you know the cash is going on harmful substances. However, flimsy boundaries and a lack of consequences is its own form of enabling. 

Don't Expect Immediate Results

Recovery from addiction is a continuous process. It requires a commitment to taking positive steps each day, and it requires patience and diligence from both you and your loved one. There is no quick fix for addiction, and it is likely you will face some setbacks along the way. The key is perseverance and realistic expectations.

Don't put excessive pressure on your loved one to 'get better' as quickly as possible. This pressure will almost undoubtedly contribute to their stress, which may worsen their circumstances. Be encouraging, but don't be forceful, and be forgiving when they make mistakes. 

Do Stay Hopeful-Recovery is Always Possible

Long-term recovery requires consistent effort, but it doesn't have to be exhausting. Try to avoid all of the behaviors we have listed while supporting your loved one. If you do slip up, forgive yourself, and try again. Compassion will carry you through, and both you and your loved one will benefit.

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