However, you can take steps that will help your loved one to make changes over the long term, and will help you to cope with a loved one with an addiction.
Step 1: Establish Trust
This can be hard to do if the addicted person has already betrayed your trust. However, establishing trust both ways is an important first step in helping them to think about change. Trust is easily undermined, even when you are trying to help.
Avoid the following trust-destroyers:
- Nagging, criticizing and lecturing the addicted person.
- Yelling, name calling and exaggerating (even when you are stressed out yourself).
- Engaging in addictive behaviors yourself, even in moderation (they will think you are a hypocrite).
Be aware that:
Although you just want to help the addicted person, they may think you are trying to control them, which can lead to them engaging in the addictive behavior even more.
They probably use the addictive behavior at least partly as a way to control stress. If the atmosphere between you is stressful, they will want to do the addictive behavior more, not less.
Building trust is a two-way process. Trust is not established by putting up with bad behavior. If you have no trust for your loved one, and do not feel it can be established at the moment, you should read Step 2.
People with addictions rarely change until there is some consequence to their behavior. Don’t try too hard to protect the addicted person from the consequences of their own actions (unless it is harmful to themselves or others, for example, drinking and driving).
Step 2: Get Help for Yourself First
Being in a relationship with a person who has an addiction is often stressful. Accepting that you are going through stress and need help managing it is an important step in helping your loved one, as well as yourself. Here are some suggestions for getting support for yourself.
Step 3: Communicate
Although you may feel tempted to let your loved one know that their addiction is a problem, and that they need to change, the decision to change is theirs. They are much more likely to be open to thinking about change if you communicate honestly but in a way that does not threaten your loved one.
These tips on communicating with an addicted loved one should help.
Step 4: The Treatment Process
The treatment process will vary according to the kind of treatment your loved one is getting.
If you are involved in your loved one’s treatment:
- Remember to keep working on establishing trust. Re-read Step 1 before going to counseling with your loved one.
- Be honest about your feelings, what you want to happen, and what the addiction has been like for you.
- Do not blame, criticize or humiliate your loved one in counseling. Simply say what it has been like for you.
- Do not be surprised if your loved one says that things you are doing are contributing to their addiction. Try to listen with an open mind.
- If you want them to change, you will probably have to change too, even if you don’t have an addiction. If you show you are willing to try, your loved one will be more likely to try as well.
If your loved one has treatment alone:
- Respect their privacy in everyday life. Do not inform friends, family or others about your loved one’s treatment.
- Respect their privacy in therapy. If they don’t want to talk about it, don’t push for them to tell you what happened.
- There are many different approaches to the challenge of how to help addicts, but remember, change does not happen overnight.
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