Loved ones are incredibly influential in all aspects of our day-to-day lives, even when it is not immediately obvious. By continual interaction with our closest friends, family members, and coworkers, we shape our decisions, actions, and behaviors in ways both large and small.
If your loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, then it is crucial that you remember that how you react and interact with them will be highly influential. In many cases, a loved one’s influence is what makes or breaks a person’s chances of eventual recovery and lasting sobriety.
Ending Codependency is Step One
Before you can act as a stone for your recovering loved one to stand on in the storm that is substance abuse, you need to ask whether or not you are codependent on them. If so, you must work on ending it as soon as possible. Codependency occurs when someone inadvertently encourages addiction and self-abusive behaviors by showing the wrong kind of emotional support to the addicted individual. Most notably, if someone showers an addict with positivity and gifts to try to keep them from feeling sad about being addicted, then the addict will subconsciously learn that they can be rewarded without actually trying to stop addiction.
You might be codependent of your addicted loved one if you:
- Keep taking responsibility for their mistakes
- Never prioritize your feelings over their own
- Cannot talk about your emotions with the addict
- Feel you have no personal boundaries when dealing with the addict
Being a Guide But Not a Therapist
When codependency is no longer a negative factor in your relationship with your addicted loved one, you can start helping them overcome their substance abuse. Oftentimes the best approach is being willing to provide guidance but not therapy. Addiction is a disease that requires professional assistance to truly battle. You should not try to play a role of an addiction recovery specialist, just as you would not try to be a doctor in a medical emergency.
It helps for you to remember that you need and deserve boundaries with your addicted loved one. You cannot always be there for them, or always put aside what is important to you to tend to their needs. Once again, this will begin an unhealthy cycle of codependency. You should remain optimistic and encouraging, though, and never vilify them for their addiction.
Relapse Can Happen Without Disappointment
No recovering addict is safe from relapse, recovery is a lifelong process that requires daily attention and maintenance. With this in mind, if your loved one relapses while trying to overcome drug addiction or alcoholism, do not act as if they failed. Relapse is not a failing to you or to themselves. It is an obstacle that can be conquered, just like addiction itself. Approach the situation with the same positive attitude you did before and make certain your loved one acknowledges that relapse must be corrected. The problem only becomes serious when they refuse to accept they are becoming addicted once again.
Scottsdale Rehab Specializing in Addiction Treatment & Therapy
At Acceptance Recovery Center, we are there to support both recovering substance addicts and their loved ones who often feel tangled in the troubles of addiction in their own way. We incorporate the 12-step philosophy to recovery into our therapy sessions and customized treatment programs to make the path to sobriety clearer and steadier. You can call for a free assessment as someone who is struggling with addiction, or you can also contact us as someone concerned for the health and well-being of a loved one who abuses drugs or alcohol.
Dr. Greg Gale has been practicing and providing leadership in the field of psychiatry, substance use, and integrated care in the Phoenix metropolitan area for over 11 years. He joins us from his role as a national medical director overseeing behavioral health, substance use, and integrated care services for Humana Behavioral Health. Previously, he was CMO and VP of Clinical Services at Partners in Recovery, a not-for-profit behavioral health and substance use service organization, which operates five clinics throughout Maricopa County.