If you are someone trying to help someone with addiction
my heart goes out to you.
The rollercoaster of emotions, thought processes, planning, attempts and defeats to help, and you may already have experienced these, are quite unbelievable to get your head around. The questions of “why?” cropping up again and again, the self-blame, doubt, anticipation, anger and fury are very difficult to manage and live with day to day. Life can be a blur as you attempt to keep your life as normal as possible. Addiction can be all-consuming to both the addict and those around them and it’s one of the hardest battles I’ve experienced personally and professionally when trying to help someone you love. To watch someone destroy their life with your own eyes is a challenging experience to put into words. You can talk with them about all the effects you see, plan with them on how to move forward, express your fears, love and hopes for them and, I have no doubt you will lose your cool with them from time to time too. It feels impossible to know what to do for the best outcome. I’ve heard experiences of people losing their jobs, families walking away from the addict, wives, girlfriends, husbands and close friends ending relationships with addicts because they couldn’t take any more of the lies, deceit and manipulation they experienced, and believe me it wasn’t an easy decision for them to make. It’s a haunting feeling when you walk away.
So what is the best thing to do? How do you help an addict?
Firstly, you have to be very realistic. If you are dealing with a substance-based addiction
you are battling against a chemical that either has a physical or psychological effect on the addict and these addictions create a false illusion and alter the addict's brain functioning. Gambling
, shopping and sex addiction
create natural physical highs which require great efforts from the addict to regulate internally themselves. No addiction can be controlled or stopped by an outside party and the sooner you can get your head around this fact, the easier you are able to manage the effects of your emotions and feelings. We are all responsible for ourselves and one of the greatest things you can do is look after yourself in difficult times more than ever. This isn’t meant in a selfish way, it simply means looking at your life and deciding what is good and what isn’t good for you. Self-care is vitally important for your own well-being. If you are stressed because you are trying to help an addict
into recovery it will filter into all other areas of your life. Perhaps your children
, grandchildren, work
, friendships, finances etc, etc could all suffer. And once your life becomes difficult because you're helping someone else, your emotions will change, becoming more desperate and negative, and so the roundabout of addiction and destruction creeps into your own life.
Leading by Example
Looking after yourself demonstrates to addicts that you are not accepting their addiction and that you won’t enable their addiction
. Often people who help become enablers to the addiction and a way of working out if you’re an enabler is to see if the addict continues with their addiction quite blatantly whilst asking for your help (usually for 1-2 months following), or talking in a relaxed way about their addiction, making it part of everyday conversation. Your help is of no help to the addict in these circumstances. It's widely known that addiction needs to hit rock bottom before recovery is possible, so having strong personal boundaries for yourself and life is the best way to help. It also helps all those involved in recovery have the same boundaries so the message is clear to the addict. It is important to note that you are not abandoning the addict in looking after yourself, you are demonstrating self-care and respect towards yourself, your family and your life. Addictions alter personalities with distorted agendas, and these can be very hurtful, even devastating to loving relationships. Addiction alters characters and the addict will be filled with shame, embarrassment and regret, even whilst addicted. By having strong boundaries and self-care and respect you are actually limiting the destruction to any future relationship with the addict, which can be dealt with once they are well into recovery. Some people have been locked in a battle of trying to help addicts for years, with the roundabout restarting over and over again, causing drama, destruction and hurt. This could be because the real root of addictive behaviour has never been uncovered or dealt with in an effective way. Seeking help from a professional to find the root causes of addiction is a good way forward, but only if the addict is prepared to do this for themselves. Forcing professional help for addiction often doesn’t work, and can be used as a new reason to continue with addiction in the future. I urge you to try and show tough love towards an addict, it is in their best interests, try your hardest not to enable their addiction and have faith that the human spirit does want to be free of addiction in the long run. If you are an addict reading this I urge you to seek professional help in those momentary moments of your gut telling you to. The longer you avoid or deny what you’re spirit is telling you the more difficult it becomes to get off the roundabout. I wish you wellness. Rebecca Jarvis - Hilton