Most of the literature about addiction that’s available addresses those who are suffering from addiction or focuses on what it’s like to become and suffer from an addiction. However, a person’s addiction affects more than just him or her. In fact, a person’s addiction affects virtually everyone in his or her life, especially family members, close friends, and other loved ones. For these people, watching someone they love continue to struggle with addiction — and suffer from the many effects that result from an addiction to alcohol or drugs — can be devastating and make them feel helpless in such a dark situation.
What to Do If You Have a Loved One Who Resists Recovery
Fortunately, you don’t have to resign yourself to sitting back and watching your addicted loved one die a slow, agonizing death. If your loved one has been resistant to recovery or receiving help for his or her addiction, here are some things you can do that are sure to help him or she regain the health and independence that’s been lost to alcohol or drugs.
The first — and arguably the most important — step to helping an addicted loved one who’s resisting recovery is to become knowledgeable about addiction and recovery. There are many misconceptions that much of the population tends to have about addiction, so understanding why and how a person comes to be addicted, what the experience is like for an addict, what withdrawal is, and what the recovery process is like will put you in a much better situation to be helpful.
Additionally, this will make you much more understanding and sympathetic rather than judgmental and disappointed, which any addict would sense and, therefore, be more likely to resist your efforts to help him or her. And finally, seeking more knowledge about addiction and recovery will show the person that your desire to help is authentic and genuine.
Express Love and Concern
When you realize that a loved one has become addicted to alcohol or drugs, you’ll inevitably feel upset. You’ll probably feel betrayed to some degree and might even feel as though his or her becoming addicted was an offense directed right at you; however, a person’s becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs has nothing to do with you or any other person.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that people or situations or past experiences were a fact, but when it comes down to it the individual had to choose to begin abusing alcohol or drugs before he or she could develop an addiction. It’s important to understand this so that you can approach your addicted loved one with empathy, love, and genuine concern, otherwise, the person will feel judged and be more inclined to continue trying to deny that he or she is addicted. Show him or her that you want to be understanding.
Attend Al-Anon or Nar-Anon Meetings
The concept of support groups tends to make people think of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous where recovering addicts stand in front of a group of strangers and admit that they’re alcoholics and drug addicts before confessing their deepest, darkest secrets. While addicts do admit their addictions and are encouraged to share in support groups, the misconception is that support groups are only for addicts. On the contrary, twelve-step support groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are actually intended for the loved ones of addicts, making these support groups ideal for anyone who would benefit from building supportive relationships with others who are going through or have been through this same experience.
End Enabling and Codependent Behavior
In treatment, addicts work with professionals during individual therapy sessions, and one of the focuses of these sessions is on identifying any relationships that might have contributed to the individual’s addiction. Specifically, this refers to any enabling or codependency that might exist between an addict and a loved one. Enabling refers to a tendency for a person to either knowingly or unknowingly make it easier for an addict to sustain his or her substance abuse habit.
Codependency refers to a type of unhealthy relationship between two people who have come to strongly rely on one another — usually for very different reasons — and end up supporting each other’s self-destructiveness. If you have been enabling your addicted loved one who resists recovery or your relationship with him or her could be described as co-dependent, it’s important to overcome those issues so that they don’t put the addict’s future sobriety and well-being at risk.
Have a Calm, Honest Discussion
Addiction is a very emotional topic and an intense experience. For one of many reasons — betraying loved ones over the course of addiction or feeling like the addict’s substance abuse is a personal affront — a person can feel angry by a loved one’s addiction, making it difficult to communicate with him or her about it without becoming defensive or argumentative. However, it’s very important to approach the person in as calm of a manner as possible.
You should convey understanding and empathy, which will suggest your genuine concern. Speaking to him or her out of anger will cause the addict to shut down and resist your help because it will feel like your efforts are motivated by the desire for retribution; therefore, you must ensure him or her that you have only the individual’s best interest in mind.