Written by: Dana Elzy
When you hear the word addict… what comes to your mind? I know prior to my schooling and experiences with individuals that suffer from addiction, I may have not wanted to get involved. Why, you ask? I didn’t know how to support or help them. You must get educated in what addiction looks like and what steps you can take for addiction support.
I’m sure many of you reading this right now may be asking yourself “I don’t even know what to do” well in this article I will give you some simple steps to help you support an addict and to help yourself stay healthy.
You say “help myself”? YES! I mean help yourself. Addiction doesn’t just affect the person with the addiction, it affects the addict’s entire environment, and if you are within that environment, YOU ARE AFFECTED!
Addiction is not a “fix” and you can’t just simply love them better. Here are some strategies to help support your addict and help the whole family heal from addiction.
What Is Addiction?
In case you are not sure if you or someone you love is an addict, the best thing to do is to seek professional help such as a licensed Therapist or even your primary care provider.
They can help assess the individual to determine if the diagnosis falls under the addiction category of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Once a diagnosis has been declared then it’s time to get busy.
How To Support An Addict
We want to explain addiction and how it correlates with mental health. Addiction is listed in the DSM-5 as a Substance-Related and Addictive Disorder. Furthermore, this opens up many avenues to receive treatment and get the right help.
So how do YOU come into the picture? I’ll show you how to help, love, and support your addict.
We need to first separate the words “support” and “enabler”. These are two different things that often get confused in addiction support.
Supporter means you are on the journey with the addict to help them find a healthy lifestyle or a change that is FREE from addiction.
Enabler means you are not helping them find a healthy lifestyle or a change, but you are creating avenues for the addict to stay in their addiction.
Now that we have separated and hopefully cleared up some confusion on these two issues we can now help support the addict to live a healthier lifestyle and live addiction FREE.
Understanding The Reality Of The Addiction
This is an important step in supporting an addict. We need to take a step back and assess the situation and recognize the realities of our circumstances.
It is important to accept the parts that may seem out of control by someone that is engaging in addictive behaviors. This is not the time to make excuses or sugar coat anything, this is the time to take a hard look at your situation.
We need to look at our situation and determine if we are supporters, enablers, or even codependents.
I know it can be difficult to take a deeper look at ourselves, but we need to be honest with ourselves. If we can not be honest with ourselves why should we expect the addict in our lives to be?
How Do We Love An Addict & Stay Healthy?
We talked about understanding our own behaviors and taking a deeper look at ourselves.
We need to look at what is working and what is not working for ourselves. It is important to set boundaries with the addict and stay strong when it comes to the limits we have set.
This may be a difficult step for some, but that is why it is important to take a look at ourselves to determine which class we fall under as in supporter, enabler or codependents. This is also an important step to assess our intentions.
Analyzing our own intentions such as: are our actions out of love or resentment? This can help us determine our own actions or reactions to the addict.
We now have determined our own actions, so what’s next?
Have you ever flown on a plane and the flight attendant explains that if the plane loses oxygen, the mask will fall down and if you are traveling with small children, you must first put the mask on yourself and then your child?
The reason we mask ourselves first is so we can help our children. More likely than not if you put the mask on your child first, they may not be able to give you the help you need. This coincides with addiction.
Do you see the similarity?
We need to stay healthy or apply our “oxygen mask” so we can help the addict. Maintaining good mental health, physical or spiritual health can determine if you, the supporter, “survive”.
Surviving for the addict is important. Do activities that bring you joy, such as friends or family events. Take a walk and have a healthy balance with work and play. Having good nutrition will keep your body working during times of stress and difficulty.
We Can’t “Fix” Anyone
We don’t have a magic wand that is going to “change” or “fix” the addict.
Wouldn’t that be wonderful if we could just wave our magic wand and things would be “fixed”? Well in reality that may not happen. The only person you can control is yourself.
Years ago I was struggling with my relationship, so I read Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s book “The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands”.
I read it in about two days. At first, I was upset at all the things she was telling me to change for the situation in my relationship to get better when I felt my husband needed to change.
Then I had the realization that I was the one seeking help, and the only person I have control over is myself. See how this works?
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
The courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
This prayer can help both you and the addict to understand that it is up to YOU to make changes, but we need to “stop trying to fix” the addict in our lives and change only the things we have control over.
Now that we have laid out a plan for you to stay healthy while supporting an addict, we will discuss things you can do for support.
Addiction is a dark lonely road, but it doesn’t have to be with the right tools in place to get healthy and encourage sobriety.
Remember This Is A Lifelong Journey
Accept them without judgment. Addicts often feel judged by their friends and family. It is important to try to refrain from negativity and criticism. Sobriety is a battle each day, and we need to be soldiers with them and not create a battlefield that would lead them to relapse.
Create A Healthy Drug-Free Environment
Remove any triggers or paraphernalia that would encourage or give access to relapse. Create a drug-free zone and stick to it. The addict depends on this. Remove ALL temptation no matter how minuscule you may believe it to be.
We all need someone to talk to and to listen to us. Addicts are no different. Listen to their successes, their struggles and be available to them. Take time to measure their feelings and discuss what challenges they are having and celebrate their successes. One day drug-free is a success.
Find Healthy Habits
Find activities you can do to encourage healthy habits, whether it is going for a walk, seeing a movie, or cooking a meal for the family. Involve them in healthy activities that refrain from addiction activities. Encourage healthy eating and involve them in activities that bring them joy.
Attend Support Groups
Attend support groups with the addict in your life such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Support groups like these help encourage sobriety and support for the addict themselves.
It is also a good idea to attend a support group like Al-Anon for yourself or family members of an addict. Groups like these support individuals that are affected by addiction.
Avoid blame. Addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. Addicts feel shame and guilt and we need to not increase these feeling. Instead, replace those feelings with love and hope.
Like I stated above, addiction and recovery is a life-long journey and they need our love and support. Relapse is part of recovery and it is important for the addict to know that their family loves and supports them through the recovery process.
Rome was not built in one day, addiction was not created in one day, and recovery will not happen in one day.
The Road to Sobriety
The road to sobriety is different for each person.
It is vital that we take care of ourselves so we can be a healthy supporter for the addict. Recovery and sobriety are easier with support from the ones we love. This is a battle and we need to be soldiers seeking recovery.
The battle for sobriety takes time, love and patience. Be the soldier of support for your addict. Seek professional help to help ease the process of recovery.