Addiction is a powerful thing.
I’ve had clients who talk about their own intergenerational alcoholism like it was another family member.
I’ve seen babies taken from their mothers at the time of birth because they were born addicted to crack cocaine.
I’ve seen couples in tears because the husband’s addiction to pornography keeps them from being intimate.
I’ve seen an individual male client tell me with a gleam in his eye that “this month, my wife is gonna win the jackpot over at the casino.” He shares this hope in session right after he tells me that he can’t pay their bill because they’re probably going to file for bankruptcy “this week.”
I’ve seen enough. But there’s always more. And attached to the more, will always be the family and friends who love those whose addictions are out of control and rocking the world around them.
This post is for those around the addicts whose worlds are being rocked. I’m talking to you today because I’ve seen how incredibly hard it is to be the loved one of someone who is addicted to…something.
I know that you respond the way you do because you love them. And, I know it’s hard to see but many times your responses will only keep the addiction going longer, or delay your loved one getting better. And, I know that sometimes the most well intended actions on your part make perfect sense to you because you are so worried about the welfare of the person who isn’t themselves…who is addicted to something and it is ruining their lives.
I know this. And, I’m writing to you anyway. I’m writing to you as an outside person to try and offer you a resource when you’re feeling like you are at your wits’ end and you feel like you can’t take your world being rocked any longer. Here are a few tips…I hope you take them as I intend them – with respect and with genuine regard for you and your addicted loved one.
- If certain people can’t be present at an intervention, do it anyway. This seems like a “no brainer,” but so many times I’ve seen people put off asking their loved ones to get help because “Uncle Bob” or “their best friend” can’t be there. They may never be able to be there. And, YOU may not feel equipped to say or handle the situation very well. But I promise you…the longer you put it off, the easier it will be to talk yourself out of the entire prospect. And then, the addiction will only continue until things get potentially “even worse” than you thought…when you never thought things could get worse.
- Stop overfunctioning for the addict. Stop it. I really mean it. So many times friends or loved ones “are just going to check the cabinet to see if there’s alcohol in the house,” or “innocently bring up the fact that they saw an empty pill bottle in the trash to see how they react,” or “just casually sneak a peak at the computer…or the diary…or a personal planner…because it’s for their own good.” So many times word vomit comes out of friends or loved one’s mouths and it’s incredibly uncool. Regardless of being “well intentioned” what it is really doing is helping relieve YOUR anxiety. YOUR job is to take care of relieving your own anxiety about the addict’s problems AWAY from the addict. Talk to a priest, a counselor, a support person…but DON’T nag, “act as an accountability partner,” or play any fake role in your addict’s life that really acts as a disguise for you checking up on them. THEY need to get better, and every time you devise a clever way to check on them, it’s apparent to the addict and will only harm your relationship more.
- Stop playing judge. Many times, a close person or family member will “hold out” from an addict some sort of resource. For example, let’s say the addict owns land or stock or some other kind of asset. Many times, family members will accept a “bargain” with an addict and say, “Okay – we’re going to keep this stuff from you until you get better. When you prove you can handle it, we’ll give it back.” This is the worst kind of blackmail. Continue reading The Need to Rescue: Important Messages for Family Members or Friends of Addicts