Do you suspect you are living with an addict? If so, it is time to shine a light on the situation and take care of yourself as you try to help your loved one.
An addict’s family suffers the most when an addiction sets in, and ironically, they are the ones who tend to be overlooked. Instead, the addict and the addiction take center stage, while the loved ones suffer in silence because they don’t want to further upset or hurt the addict, or rock the boat in a way that will lead to confrontation and crisis.
However, silence and denial do not ultimately aid the addict and they do not make the addiction go away. And it does not help a loved one to sweep the problem under the rug.
Addictions thrive on secrecy. They feed on tension, silence, and unspoken hurt. The less a family communicates, the more the addiction spreads and the deeper the roots go. Still, it can be very difficult to talk to an addict about his or her addiction, especially if the person is not yet willing to admit that there’s a problem. Here are some tips to help you get started:
Make a game plan. It’s never a good idea to approach an addict without a firm idea of what you want to say. Additionally, it’s not a good idea to approach an addict while in the midst of an addictive behavior (while he or she is drunk/high/gambling/etc.). Wait for a time when you can speak openly and freely without the addiction right in front of you. Think about what you want to say ahead of time, and be certain that your tone is not accusatory or confrontational. Instead, make sure that the addict understands you are concerned for his or her wellbeing. For example, you might say, “When you drink, I worry that you don’t have control” or “When you use drugs, I fear for your life.”
Make your bottom line known. Once you have made it clear that you are no longer going to allow the addiction to continue, you have to firmly state your bottom line. For example, “If you continue drinking, I won’t allow you to be alone with the children” or “If you continue using drugs, I am going to move out of the house and take the children with me.” A family’s safety must come before the addiction, no matter what.
If you are worried that your partner might become volatile or abusive, make sure to have trusted friends or family members with you, or pack up the children ahead of time. This is a difficult step since it will be very hard to walk away from your partner, but often it takes a strong bottom line to force an addict into treatment. Even if you don’t have children, it is still not healthy or safe for you to live with an addict, and staying with an addictive partner can actually do him more harm than good, as it enables him to continue down a path of destruction.
Get help. Addictions do not just impact the addict, and the recovery process can’t involve only the addict. The whole family needs to get help for the treatment to be as effective as possible, not to mention, therapy will help give you the peace of mind and strength that you have likely lost as a result of the addiction. Remember, you are not alone and treatment is available. Check out the Betty Ford Center for more information.