Even though there are millions of individuals struggling with addiction, there are many more loved ones suffering right along with them. One of the areas that are primarily impacted in the lives of individuals struggling with addiction is communication. Isolation and anger are the most common communication patterns that emerge in relationships during substance dependence.
As a loved one, the first step you can take is to educate yourself. The more you know about addiction, the more you can understand and help them. You can get yourself educated through support groups, seminars, readings and books. Education will help you recognize behavior patterns that are associated with different types of substances.
The second step is safety. As a loved one, you need to determine if you and your loved one are safe. Some individuals may become violent and unpredictable when they are under the influence which may constitute danger for the ones around them. Also, whether or not your loved one is driving under the influence and going to work that may lead to work injuries are an important factors to recognize.
The third step is talking to your loved one in a way that is not judging, punishing and pressing. You cannot ask them to stop because they already want to, but they cannot. You may express your concerns about the individual and tell them that they can come to you whenever they need help to go through a treatment program. Even though they may seem defensive first, they will remember your conversation when they feel like they are ready to quit.
The fourth step is monitoring your enabling patterns. Co-dependent patterns arise when you start covering up for your loved one when they lie, make mistakes or doesn’t show up to work or family gatherings. You may need to stop giving them money and making excuses for them. These behaviors are enabling, not helping and you allow your loved one to continue their addiction by enabling them.
The fifth step as an individual whose loved one is struggling with addiction is to take care of yourself, sharing your pain with your loved ones and not feeling guilty about spending time doing the things that you need to enjoy. Seeing you upset and stressful will push your loved one away from opening up to you as they may see their addiction as a burden on you if you appear stressed.
-Ipek Aykol, LMFT 97315