How to Support a Loved One During Addiction Recovery
What can you do to be supportive to an addicted family member during recovery? And, how would you know if you are enabling or if you have co-dependency and how can you avoid them? Get the answers to these questions as you explore the do’s and don’ts of supporting a loved one during addiction recovery.
After answering, “Yes” to the question, “Can I convince my loved one to join an addiction recovery program?” you need to know how you can support them without encouraging their addiction. Oftentimes, in our attempt to help them, we sometimes cross the boundary between supporting and enabling them by protecting your addicted loved one from the consequences of their actions. When you do that, you are already sending the message that you are complacent with their substance abuse which is almost equivalent to giving them the money to buy drugs or alcohol.
When helping becomes too much, it becomes enabling. When it goes beyond that, it becomes co-dependency, a disease which is as serious as drug addiction.
What Dr. Charles F. Gehrke says about supporting recovery and co-dependency
“Supporting recovery is not causing it or creating it” says Dr. Gehrke a substance abuse professional and a professor from the University of Michigan Medical Center.
This means that you only help the addict in their recovery but it is not up to you to make them quit for good. They already want to recover and they are doing something to achieve sobriety. Your role is only to support them do what they need to do to reach their goals.
“All of us who are living or associated with an addict are affected by their behaviors and disease of addiction” he added. Addiction is as progressive as co-dependency. In the middle stage of addiction the addict starts to feel the impact of addiction into his daily life. Co-dependency works in the same way.
“As the codependency progresses, the person begins to feel responsible for what they see in an addict, they feel compelled to help, they feel the need to intercede, modify or change the consequences. They start feeling guilty about what’s going on, whether or not they contributed to the addiction and the addicts behaviors, and whether it’s because of what they have done or they did not do” he continued. Dr. Gehrke explained that families with co-dependency are very scared of what’s going on in an addict’s life; they feel insecure and overwhelmed if things don’t work out the way they expected.
Dr. Gehrke’s tips on how families should support addicted loved one’s recovery
Educate yourself about your loved one’s addiction. How many times have you blamed yourself for your loved one’s addiction thinking that they “behave’ that way because of what you did or did not do? The moment you realize that addiction is a disease and not just a behavior, an attitude or a habit that you can control, you also learn how to respond to the disease and not on the behavior. You stop taking it personally and you remove yourself from the equation.
Detach. This is the opposite of attachment which is obvious in enablers. You learn how to ask for help and use the information you receive to help your loved one. You stop believing that the behavior you see is a choice.
Dr. Gehrke gives some examples of sentences showing you think addicts can stop using drugs when they finally make up their mind.
- I wish she will not drive while drunk
- I wish he will quit
- I wish he will quit
- Why doesn’t she take better care of herself?
You need to stop seeing your loved one’s addiction as a choice but as a disease. They didn’t decide to be that way. Addiction alters the reward pathway of the brain that also affects decision making and involuntary activity or the things you do without thinking. You use drugs to get high, that’s the reward. You decide to do something which will help you get that reward.
The side-effects of drug use also make you do things that you don’t choose to do like becoming violent, careless, depressed and more. There is also a very strong craving for the drugs. It is too powerful that addicts cannot resist it and some even end up breaking the law (like stealing) just to get their supply.
Do not allow the addict to divert your attention from the real issue. Dr. Gehrke says that addicts are experts when it comes to passing the blame, making excuses, making the issue less serious than what it truly is, and lying. If they don’t show up at your grandmother’s birthday party because they were high that’s why they didn’t make it, don’t put up with their excuses.
An addict may say that he just wanted time alone with his grandma and not because he is high. Or, if an addict was fired he may say that he has been planning to resign for a long time and is glad that he doesn’t have to do it anymore. Be honest and direct about the consequences of their addiction. Let them see these consequences as they are and don’t believe their justifications.
What acts can be considered as enabling?
It can be tough to distinguish between enabling and helping because of the very thin line that separates the two. Many family members or friends want to help their loved one with addiction but oftentimes, it turns out that they are already enabling them. While some of them start off helping, they end up doing more damage by enabling.
Most addicts need help and helping the out is actually a very good thing to do. But, if helping would result to hindering the addict from facing the consequences of their actions the enabler would also be hurt in the process.
When you enable a drug addict, you help him carry on with his destructive habit of using addictive substances. For example, you give them the things that will make it easy for them to get high like giving them free rides, money or paying for their debts. Another example is paying their utility bills, posting bail, covering up for them and allowing the addict to rule your life.
How would you know if you already crossed the line of helping and enabling? You will know it when doing things for the addicted loved one already hurts you because they never change despite of what you do. Take note that an enabler’s act of helping harms the addicts more because they get deeper into drugs and the enabler ultimately feels the pain and the negative effects of enabling.
Why is enabling bad for the addict and the enabler?
Enabling is not healthy both for the addict who does not experience the consequences of his addictive habits, and may not realize he has a problem and the enabler who may become a co-dependent. When the addict continues using drugs, the enabler becomes frustrated and confused. They are also giving the drug addict the opportunity to control them emotionally by making them feel guilty if they don’t enable them anymore. Enablers usually do things for the addict out of good intentions but they end up encouraging the addiction without knowing it.
Should you abruptly withdraw financial support to a drug addict?
While you don’t want them to have the money to buy drugs take note that quitting cold turkey can be fatal for people heavily addicted to drugs or alcohol. Suddenly stopping using it can lead to fatal seizures. They need to go through supervised detox to lessen or remove the withdrawal symptoms and go through a treatment program to break the addiction habit.
You can’t just kick a loved one out of your house, remove the credit card or let them live on the street so they realize how bad drugs are for them and expect that they will become sober because of that. The problem may even get worse if you cut them off and they may even die in the process. So, if you want them to stop, guide them through it.
Most of the drug addicts want to quit, but the addiction itself controls them. Sometimes, their fear of withdrawal is too high that they end up using it because they don’t want to feel the withdrawal pains. Talk to them when they are sober and if you have to practice “tough love” by making conditions-like asking them to see an addiction professional otherwise you won’t pay their bills.
Is it wrong to give an addicted love one a roof over his head?
There’s no problem in offering them a place to crash for a bit, giving food or a ride when they have to buy grocery or go to school; taking care of their kids (for parents) while they gradually wean off from drugs. But, you should set the limits. You must only help them out when they have no one else to turn to and for a limited time only. They should feel the bad effects of addiction and you should not spare them from it.
Helping addicts out would only go so far as making sure that they are alive, they won’t hurt themselves or other people. And, only when doing so would help them realize that there’s more to life than using drugs. But, it doesn’t mean that you will let your sibling, spouse or child stay under your roof while they are using drugs or give them money.
Helping out doesn’t mean you let them lie, steal from you and get them away with it. The best way to do this is to give them an ultimatum-get treatment or get out. Being supportive in their recovery means that you let them know that you will be there to help them overcome drug addiction and will take them to a treatment facility and will help the out of their destructive habit.
Should you really kick a relative addict out?
While you may want to give up on him and think that being homeless would make an addict change, think again. They know how to survive on the streets, even to the extent of stealing or prostitution just to support their addiction. Take note that it is not you who caused their addiction. You cannot make them stop or change them. What you can do is to introduce them to a treatment program that will help them stop using addictive substances for good and support them until they recover.
When should you help an addicted loved one out-when they are still using drugs or when they are recovering already?
There’s a big difference in supporting an addicted loved one who continuously uses drugs and someone who’s struggling with his recovery. But, in both cases your addicted loved one need your help but your approach should vary.
For example, if your son is 30 years old and you have took him in your house and helped him complete inpatient, outpatient programs and NA meetings but he always goes back to drug use, you should reconsider the way you support him. Don’t support him so he can use drugs; support him so he can stop it.
How an addict gets the ability to change
“We have an amazing team here and we offer amazing evidence-based services” says Jimmy Kayihura, the Intake Specialist of Hawaii Island Recovery. This facility nestled in the paradise island of Kailua Kona offers individualized treatment programs that help even long-term addicts to get clean and sober.
Fernando Manon, a counselor and therapist at HIR who is also a Licensed Mental Health Counselor says that the HIR process works and this process can help addicts get a little bit better along the road.
“I do both group and individual therapy. It’s called Psycho- educational group which crosses the line between informational and therapeutic. Individual therapy goes deeper into the issues that arise from group therapy. We really get into people’s ability to change and to tap into that ability that they think they can” Fernando added.
If you really want your loved one to change, let them change. Bring them to HIR, a place where they can realize that they never lost that ability to regain control of their lives and to enjoy the power to make healthy choices.
Call us at (866) 491-8009 to discuss how we can help you and your loved one overcome addiction and co-dependent and how you can be supportive without being an enabler.