• Ilana Bendel, RMHCI

9 Things To Know When Living With Someone Who Has An Addiction

 Almost everyone knows someone with an addiction, likely including you. Perhaps you don’t live with them or perhaps it’s your brother, sister, mother, father, wife or husband.

Here are some basic steps to start with getting the proper help.

1. Understand you cannot do this alone.  

Find out what your options are for support for your loved one. This includes local meetings and identifying your support system. Finding a local meeting involves a quick google search of “(insert type of addiction) meetings in (insert your city).” This step applies to both of you, but recognize that your partner or family member or friend may not be ready to admit they have a problem and all you can do is show them the information. Knowing this, you can still attend the meetings for yourself. There are meetings geared towards family members (with or) without an addiction. For example: Alcoholics Anonymous has Al-Anon specifically for family members to learn how to deal with family struggling with an addiction.  This is most beneficial because you will be surrounded by people who are going through exactly what you are going through and you will gain critical and helpful tools as to how to deal with your loved one while understanding that you are not alone in this. 

2. Recognize that this is not your fault.

You did not do anything to cause an addiction and there is help out there for you and your loved one. You may have missed the signs or you may be struggling with what to do next, but recognize the only person you can control right now is you. Recognize that this is not your fault (repeat this as many times as you need), but you can take action today to make your life better. 

3. Knowledge is power.  

Learn about core concepts in addiction including: enabling and codependency. Enabling is when, usually without realizing it, we don’t realize but our actions are actually furthering the addiction. Note that this comes directly after # 2, so keep reminding yourself while this is not your fault, there may be areas in which you are continuing the same behaviors which may prevent the addiction from getting proper help.  Again, this is NOT your fault, but enabling the behavior to continue doesn’t help anyone. Codependency is “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of illness or addiction.” There are so many great books on this topic, most popular is anything by Melody Beattie. Figuring out your role in this relationship is crucial to learning how to set boundaries with addiction. Taking an honest look at codependency is scary because it forces you to relieve that attachment that you may have been hanging on to. 

4. Get a therapist for yourself. Remember you may not be able to get your loved one to see someone, but you need support. Find a therapist who is trained in addiction, who will understand and help you through this. If you have never seen a therapist before, it is not scary and it also isn’t a magic quick fix, but it is so necessary. How to find the right therapist will be in a different post, but simplest way to go about it is going on and browsing through your local therapists and seeing which one would suit you best. Make an appointment and stick to it. This is vital. 

5. Self care. 

Perhaps you’ve heard about this topic as nauseum, but that’s a good thing!  Make sure You do at least one thing a day that makes you HAPPY. We’re talking forget everything bad and just enjoy the moment. Everyone has different things that fill them with joy, so if you don’t know what yours are, now is the time to make a list to refer to daily. It can be as short as 2-5 minutes or a longer activity if you have the time, but make sure at least once a day that you do it! 

6. Set boundaries.

This one definitely requires the help of a therapist, but take some time to think about the areas in which you have been giving too much to or being taken advantage of. Recognize that this needs to end and you can say yes or no when needed. Saying no takes courage and power, but you have it in you. 

7. This isn’t about you. 

When someone is under the influence, ANY influence, they will likely blame you for their deep insecurities and problems, but don’t listen to that. Yes, as we’ve mentioned above codependency and enabling play a role,but you are in no way responsible for their behaviors that likely stem from a past trauma. So recognize that this is not about you. 

8. Learn what to say and how to say it. 

One thing Al-Anon will teach is the phrase “I love you but I don’t want to engage when you’re under the influence (of anything,this could include gambling etc)” this shows you are there to support your loved one but not the addiction. Mean what you say and say what you mean but don’t say it in a mean way. 

9. Recovery is possible!

Someone in recovery learns to take it day by day and that means that you as well will take it day by day. Know that recovery is possible even when it seems like you have no idea what to do. Hold onto that fact and stay strong! The fact that you or they are looking for help is the first step. Someone in recovery begins to look at their life in a very sincere and real way and learns to make strong changes slowly. Learn to be patient with your partner or loved one as they grow in recovery.

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