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4 Ways to Support the Addicted Loved One in Your Life

Loving someone with a substance addiction is incredibly difficult. The drive to use – whether it’s drugs or alcohol – is completely overwhelming to the addict.

In fact, it consumes their thoughts and behaviors to the point of becoming routine. And when something is routine, the addict is swayed into thinking that what they are doing is commonplace. In short, they cannot recognize that they have a problem – despite it being so clear to everyone else.

This is the nature of addiction. Although your partner might consciously be choosing you – they are driven back to their preferred substance by an uncontrollable urge.

The Drive of Addiction

This urge that drives addiction is both psychological and physical.

When someone has been using substances for a long time, the neurotransmitters in their brain are altered and a level of tolerance is developed.-Helen FarrellWhen someone has been using substances for a long time, the neurotransmitters in their brain are altered and a level of tolerance is developed.  Even if they decide to stop using, their body will react negatively through a process known as withdrawal.

Take an alcoholic, for example; withdrawal can lead to the extremely uncomfortable experience of shaking, sweating, panic, hallucinations, seizures and even death.

When it comes to an individual and his addiction – that is the most important relationship in his life. And anything that poses a threat to that relationship is likely to be discarded.

Supporting vs. Enabling

There’s a fine line between supporting and enabling your loved one who struggles with an addiction.  While many people believe that love should be enough to conquer all – the truth is that addictions are not easily overcome and can exhaust love ones’ of their time and energy.

Choosing to stay in the relationship is a personal decision. Here are four tips that can help you be more empowered in the dynamic of love and addiction.

    • Tip#1 Take a Curious Approach

      Releasing anger and frustration might temporarily make you feel better, but it will only incite your partner and perpetuate the addiction. If they get defensive, they might even start to blame you for their problem. Judgments are met with resistance and opposition. Screaming, yelling and threatening are all unproductive tactics that will likely be met with resentment on both ends. Rather than berating your partner for their choices, encourage them to tell you about their use when they are ready.

      You are truly powerless over his addiction. But you own your own emotional responses to your partner. You can’t control or cure another’s addiction, but by staying curious, you may gain some influence over it.


    • Tip #2 Set Limits

      Ultimatums are not helpful in fostering positive change, especially when you try to set limits with absolutely no follow-through. It’s essential that you do not enable his addictive behaviors. If you say, “I can’t be in this relationship if you’re using,” you must end things. Making threats with no action simply conveys your own ambivalence and perpetuates the cycle of dependency. It also implies that perhaps you are somehow gaining something from your partner’s addiction – further promoting his continued use and your own co-dependency. Although leaving might be tough, it gives your partner a chance to take steps and get help.

      Remember that as you set boundaries, you are protecting yourself as much as helping your partner. Rejection of you is caused by his addiction, not absence of love.


    • Tip #3 Get Support

      The most important thing you need to focus on, when in a relationship with an addict, is taking care of yourself. Put energy into focusing on your own life instead of trying to control him or force change. Join a support group such as Al-Anon. Learn as much as you can about the disease of addiction, and about your own co-dependence. It’s imperative that you offer as much love and support to yourself as you offer him.


  • Tip #4 Be Realistic

    Loving an addict is painful. There are times when you stand by and watch the one you love destroying himself, your relationship and everything else in his life. Many people feel hopeless in this scenario, but you are not alone. Although it is painful, remember that if he chooses drugs or alcohol over you, it’s not personal.

Keeping Recovery in Perspective

Remember: Recovery is a process – not an endpoint. For more support reach out to these resources:

Image Courtesy of iStock

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