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How to Cope with Living with an Addict

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD By September 23, 2019
family of addicts/what to do after a relapse

There’s no doubt that individuals who have an addiction have it tough. However, living with an addict can cause an unimaginable amount of fear, sadness, and grief. Living with a loved one who needs to seek treatment for addiction can be extremely difficult, bringing hardship to the entire family.

Addiction brings with it a world full of lies and deceit, leaving the people who are being lied to with unanswerable questions and haunting doubt.

Living With an Addict Takes Its Toll

Living with someone who suffers from addiction is difficult no matter if that addict is your spouse, parent, child, or friend. It’s incredibly difficult to watch them struggle with a problem as serious as addiction. It’s especially difficult to know that there is no sure way to get through to them and get them to just stop abusing drugs or alcohol. When addiction is involved, the desire to get sober has to come from the addict, and no one else can force them to recover from alcoholism or addiction.

For someone who is living with an addicted individual, this can be incredibly frustrating. As hard as it is, individuals who are living with addicted loved ones must draw lines and set boundaries in order to prevent the living arrangement from becoming an enabling atmosphere. In an attempt to be caring, people often cross the line into enabling the addict to continue with their addiction.

Enabling behaviors include things like giving the addict money, which they will more than likely spend on drugs or alcohol, even if they swear they won’t. It could also be ignoring the addiction, proverbially “sweeping it under the rug.” It could also mean that you are allowing them to continue living with you, despite things like drinking and getting high, or maybe even stealing from you.

Enabling Behaviors Come in Various Forms

Some further examples of enabling behavior include:

  • Taking the responsibilities of the addict as your own.
  • Making excuses for them and covering for them.
  • Providing access to drugs and/or alcohol by having them in the home.
  • Giving the addicted individual empty threats – like threatening to kick them out but failing to actually do so.
  • Drinking or getting high with the person.

It is very difficult to differentiate between enabling an addict and being a caring person. Also, it can be challenging to find the fine line that stands between helping someone and enabling the person. Your loved one may sometimes seem desperate to have more drugs or alcohol. As his or her body goes into withdrawal between periods of substance use, the individual will struggle to feel “normal”. So, your loved one may ask you for help in acquiring drugs or alcohol.

In these challenging moments, seeing your friend or family member in a desperate condition can be overwhelming. In an effort to end your loved one’s suffering, you might give in to the pressure and give him or her money or access to the substances they abuse. 

Of course, this may seem like the best thing you can do in order to help your loved one to feel better. But, it’s only worsening the problem in the long run. Tough love is absolutely essential in this scenario. Spending more time and energy enabling your loved one’s addiction will take away from his or her health. It will also take away from your own life: your time, sanity, and money.

The Importance of Evaluating Your Situation

During this time, it may be difficult for you to figure out what you should do about your loved one’s problem. But, it’s important to evaluate the circumstance and determine whether you should continue living with your addicted loved one or if it’s best for you to separate yourself from the situation for a while.

Many individuals become tired and frustrated because of a loved one’s substance use problem. They may continuously beg their friend or family member to seek help. But, sometimes, people who suffer from addiction don’t desire or feel ready to take that step. 

This can obviously take a toll on the emotional and even the physical health of those who are connected to addicted individuals. It’s especially hard for those who are living with people who struggle with addiction. 

Sometimes, people who have substance use disorders don’t truly recognize how severe their problem is. In other cases, they may be aware of the effects of their problem but they may not want treatment. Perhaps your loved one isn’t expressing any interest in getting help. You may consider removing yourself from the situation or asking them to leave or get help.

Understanding Your Loved One’s Struggle With Addiction

One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to substance abuse is the idea that individuals who have addictions are choosing to continue using drugs and alcohol. In essence, many people believe that addiction is a choice.

This can often seem to be the case when it comes to your loved one. Perhaps, no matter how much you ask them to avoid substance use, your loved one continues to use and abuse drugs or alcohol. It can seem like your friend or family member is actually choosing substance abuse over everything else. 

But, the truth of the matter is that addiction is never a choice. In most cases, addiction develops over a period of time. Although there are usually signs of a developing problem, these indications are not always obvious. Sometimes, people become dependent on drugs or alcohol without realizing it. And, eventually, they find themselves suffering from addiction.

The Importance of Professional Treatment

Your friend or family member is suffering from a disease that they can’t overcome by simply choosing to stop drinking or using. Substance abuse is more than the physical action of using alcohol or drugs. It also involves underlying causes, including emotional and mental challenges.

This is one of the reasons why professional treatment is so important. Ending substance abuse is challenging because of the withdrawal symptoms that come with this process. Your friend or family member may need medical attention and guidance throughout their recovery. 

Do What’s Best For You and Your Loved One

Whether or not you continue to live with the individual, it’s best for you to set healthy boundaries between yourself and the addict so that you are not consumed by their actions. Make yourself a priority, and think about constructive ways you can help your friend or family member without devoting your whole life to it. The bottom line is that an addict will continue to use drugs or drink until they are ready to stop.

Getting them into treatment is obviously a great goal to have. It’s also worthwhile to educate yourself on what options are out there so that you can be ready with suggestions once the time comes. Also, use resources to help yourself, like support groups, or you may even want to consider therapy yourself.

If you are desperate about the situation, consider staging an intervention by bringing together people who genuinely care about the addicted individual in your life and want to see him or her do well. The overall goal is to get your loved one into treatment. But, in the end, that is only up to them.

Family Therapy as a Part of Addiction Treatment

Once a person is in an addiction treatment program, it’s important for families to be involved so that they can learn how to best deal with the behaviors that go along with addiction and recovery. In family therapy, you will benefit from a number of things, including:

  • You will stay updated on the progress of the addict’s treatment – setbacks, achievements, and all.
  • You will be invited to speak with a therapist without the addict present so that you have the opportunity to voice concerns about the situation.
  • Everyone, including the family and the individual in recovery, will come together with the therapist either in person or via a phone call to openly discuss and resolve any issues that may be going on.
  • You will be given resources for help so that you can move forward in a healthy relationship with the addict once treatment is over, and learn how to prevent and spot a relapse.

There is help out those who are suffering from addiction. Both the addicted individual and everyone around them can find hope through professional treatment and therapy. The sooner you can get help, the better the situation will be.

Getting Help at Discovery Institute in New Jersey

Here at Discovery Institute, we have been helping addicts and their families recover from drug and alcohol addiction for years. We understand the severity of addiction and we know what it takes in order to end this problem in the lives of our clients. Our team is dedicated to taking care of those who come to our facility and we also work to provide support and education to the families of our clients.

Living with an addicted individual is often challenging. It’s not easy to see your loved one struggle. But, Discovery Institute is here to help end this struggle in your family and bring peace to your home through recovery.

To speak with a staff member today and discuss the best options for you and your loved one, just contact us today by calling (844) 433-1101.

References:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment/what-to-do-if-your-adult-friend-or-loved-one-has-problem-drugs 

https://www.addictioncenter.com/rehab-questions/how-do-i-help-a-recovering-addict-or-alcoholic/ 

Article Reviewed by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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