It's not easy having someone in your life that you love and care about destroying themselves because of their use of drugs or alcohol. It doesn't matter whether they're an alcoholic, addicted to street drugs or dependent on prescription medications.
It tears you apart inside to see them slowly destroy themselves right in front of you and you feel helpless and emotionally drained. Their uncontrollable compulsive drug seeking behaviors not only affect them but everyone else in their life as well.
It's impossible to know how to deal with a person's alcohol or drug addiction let alone the attitudes and behaviors that are associated with their use. The family member or loved one that they once knew is gone and it's impossible to get through to them and equally impossible to live with them. You're torn because you love them and want to help them any way that you can, but at the same time you're scared for them, depressed and angry inside.
We know that until a drug addict or an alcoholic is ready to change, they're not going to seek help on their own no matter how bad their life becomes. No matter how hard you try to convince them of their need for help, their denial is much stronger and louder than your caring, love and concern for them. We find ourselves becoming just as irrational sometimes as the drug addict or alcoholic and our lives too become unmanageable.
Enabling the Drug Addict or Alcoholic
We don't even realize that we're part of the problem because we enable them in ways we're not even consciously aware of. We make excuses to ourselves and others concerning their behavior which is part of our own denial process. Sometimes we cover for them when it comes to their jobs, schooling or other areas of their life that are being affected by their substance use or drinking problem. We make it easy on them so they don't have to take responsibility for their own behaviors which in the long run just makes things worse for them as well as ourselves.
How many times have you given the drug addict or alcoholic in your life money because they said they needed food, gas, or money to pay their bills? Whether they used the money to cover expenses or spent it on drugs or alcohol makes no difference, we are still enabling them and hurting ourselves at the same time. We do it for all the right reasons, we love them, care about them and it tears us apart to see them needing and hurting. We just don't realize at the time that we're not helping them. We're actually hurting them in the long run and making it easier for them to live in their 'denial'.
I know it isn't easy but there comes a time when we have to start making the right decisions and do what's best for everyone concerned. You can't change or control a drug addict or alcoholic but you can change how you react to them. As hard as it is, there comes a time when you have to take care of yourself because if you're not emotionally and physically healthy, neither is anyone else that's around us.
Tips for Dealing with Alcoholism or Drug Abuse
Address your concerns as soon as possible with your loved one concerning their alcohol problem or substance abuse.
Be firm and honest with your loved one about their drinking problem or substance abuse. Talk to them about seeking help but be ready to accept the fact that they will probably deny they have a problem. If the person with the drinking problem or substance use problem is your child, seek help from a physician, school counselor, professional addiction counselor or therapist for advice. Getting advice from a counselor or therapist experienced in addiction about a loved one's problem with drugs or alcohol no matter what age they are will help you too.
If the person is an adult, you can't make them seek help but you can look into a professional intervention. An alcoholic or drug addict doesn't have to be willing to seek help on their own for treatment to work. Many people have worked through their denial and successfully recovered from their dependency to alcohol or drugs when a planned intervention was performed. This is done by an experienced Addiction Interventionist and the loved ones family.
Get help for yourself, this is most important. Educate yourself as much as possible about addiction. There are also wonderful support groups for family and loved ones of an alcoholic or drug addict. Al-Anon Family Groups is for friends and families of problem drinkers and there you will find understanding, encouragement and support. Nar-Anon is a support group for relatives and friends of someone with a drug addiction and you will receive the same support, encouragement and understanding. Attending a support group will help you heal emotionally and develop the coping skills needed during this time in your life.
Make them take responsibility for their own behaviors and actions when their alcohol or drug abuse has affected their job, schooling or other important areas of their life. Calling in sick for them unless it's your child and they're in school, keeps them from being responsible.
Don't make excuses for their behaviors to yourself or to anyone else as hard as it may be. Many times their behaviors and actions are embarrassing and we tend to try to smooth things over for them. This doesn't help the situation, it keeps them from taking responsibility and continues to make it easier for them to live in denial.
Avoid verbal confrontation with a person if they're drunk or high because they hear only what they want to hear, the conversation goes nowhere and you're the one that's left miserable and hurt. Talk to them when they're sober and be firm with your concerns.
Don't give them money under any circumstances because they are probably going to use the cash to purchase drugs or alcohol no matter how strongly they say they won't. Addiction is a disease and lying and denial goes hand and hand with this illness. An alcoholic or drug addict will lie and sometimes steal in order to feed their addiction.
Sometimes as hard as it is, we have to walk away from the alcoholic or drug addict in our life especially if they're an adult. There is only so much you can do and then it's time to walk away because you have to find healing and recovery for yourself. Addiction doesn't just affect the user it affects everyone in their life. It's important that you learn the skills to cope with their illness in order for your emotional and physical well-being.
You're not alone, alcoholism and substance abuse is prevalent throughout the United States and there are thousands of children, young and older adults affected by a loved one's addiction every day. You may not be able to change and control the addict in your life, but you can change how you deal with their addiction.