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9 Things To Remember When Dealing With An Addicted Loved One

9 Things To Remember When Dealing With An Addicted Loved One

The World Health Organization estimates that 76.3 million people struggle with alcohol use disorders which contributed to 3.3 million deaths per year worldwide. In 2008, it was reported that 155-250 million people abuse substances other than alcohol. In 2009, there were over 37,000 deaths in the US alone where drug abuse was the primary cause of death.

Sadly, addiction affects millions around the world and not just the ones that struggle with addiction, but the family members that are desperately hoping for their addicted loved one to one day find sobriety. I have experience in this area and am sharing what worked for me so that I could keep my life manageable while dealing with an addicted loved one.

Since we do not live in a perfect world, nor do we have a cure for addiction, here are 9 things to remember when dealing with an addicted loved one. We wish this list had the secret ingredient that would lead the loved one to permanent and positive change. This list focuses on healthy ways the family member can choose to deal with their addicted loved one.

1. We Can’t Control It

I have learned this from experience – we cannot make others do anything in life. We are only responsible for ourselves and our own actions or reactions to any given situation. I tried everything – hiding keys so the loved one wouldn’t leave, withholding money so they couldn’t spend it on drugs and alcohol. I even tried verbal threats, ultimatums and shaming them for their choices and actions yet none of those things prevented them from heading right back into their addiction.

My addicted loved one still found a way to relapse or use again regardless of my actions. Once we realize we have no power over anyone else it is easier to accept the situation and evaluate what changes we need to make for ourselves.

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2. We Didn’t Cause It

I spent many nights believing I had some part in their decision to go out and abuse drugs or alcohol that day or that night. Was is something I did or said?  I believed that it was my fault for their actions or decisions. I put unnecessary guilt and blame on myself for believing that it was because of me that they gave into their addiction again.

It is important to remember that we are not to blame and that we did not cause our loved one’s problem with drugs or alcohol. Sometimes the addicted loved one will attempt to blame us for their actions and decisions but please remember it is not our fault. We didn’t cause it, nor can we cure it.

3. We Can’t Fix It

If we could somehow say or do something to fix our loved one’s problem with addiction, then addiction wouldn’t be so widespread. I tried everything under the sun to get the outcome that I wanted (my loved one in sobriety/recovery), but I realized that I was not going to be the one to fix them or change them.

There is a fine line between helping your loved one out of a sticky situation because of the consequences of their addiction and continuing to enable their addictive behavior. I used to be the fixer by bailing them out of jail, trying to cover up for their mistakes due to their addiction. When we finally realize that our part in trying to ‘fix’ the situation is actually doing more harm than good, we are able to make the necessary changes in our lives and focus on ourselves instead of our addicted loved one. Instead of trying to ‘fix them’, we need find out what our responsibility is going to be in terms of their addiction.

4. We Don’t Have To Take Part In It

It is common for loved ones to believe they have nothing to do with their family member’s addiction because they aren’t the ones providing the drink or the drug, but they are allowing the behavior to continue (especially if their loved one lives with them). If you have no consequences for a loved one that is living with you that struggles with addiction, you are essentially condoning their behavior and enabling their addiction to continue.

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If your addicted loved one believes that their choices towards addiction is not really affecting others, why would they ever change? Once we decide to no longer contribute or enable our loved one’s addictive behaviors, we are able to create a more peaceful environment for ourselves.

What we allow in our relationships is what will continue. It is up to us to decide what we will and will not accept in any given situation or relationship regardless if that person is our spouse, boyfriend, mother, father, sister brother, son or daughter.

5. We Can Avoid Insanity

Insanity is described as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. If you have tried the same threats, fights, shaming and guilt over and over again yet expecting something to change – you are essentially living in insanity.

I lived in my own insanity for a long while until I realized I have the power to either stay on the roller coaster that was my loved one’s addiction or choose to remove myself from the chaos that addiction brings.

Many times that means leaving the relationship. Some may call it tough love but it can also be called getting out of insanity. Finally we can be at peace knowing we gave our loved one numerous opportunities toward positive change and their decision to seek out or reject sobriety is completely their own.

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6. We Can Set Healthy Boundaries

Setting a healthy boundary is about protecting yourself from further chaos or emotional harm. Many times your loved one is so wrapped up in their addictive behaviors they will see a boundary as being “told what to do.”  But a boundary is really nothing more than you stating what you will and will not accept. Once consequences are set up, if your boundaries are not respected, you must be ready to plan for different outcomes.

Setting a boundary is easy, but following through with the consequence is more challenging. When setting a boundary, keep it factual and to the point. Use When You choose to leave and stay out all night drinking and not answering your phone, I Feel disrespected, ignored, abandoned and once again lied to as you said this wouldn’t happen again. I Want you to explore getting into a recovery program and seeing a counselor or I will consider all of my options including leaving the relationship or asking you to leave (if your loved one lives with you).

Be firm, set a time frame and let go of the outcome. A boundary is not a “hope” that this will make your addicted loved one change, it is about protecting your own emotional health and leaving the decision up to them.

7. We Can Be A Part Of The Solution

We need to love our addicted loved one no matter what. We can still set firm boundaries and reinforce that we care about them. We can be encouraging and forgiving – addiction is a disease. We need to verbalize that they do have the power to overcome and that it’s never too late, they might just need help from a 12-step recovery program or a counselor to get there.

Many addicted loved ones feel hopeless and helpless in the middle of their addiction and by continuing to direct our anger or negativity at them because of their decisions does not help the situation. We can reinforce that we will always be a part of the solution to end their addictive behaviors. But we will not be a part of the problem any longer by enabling or accepting their choice to continue to abuse drugs or alcohol. We will always support them and remember to let them know they are still loved. We, however, do not love the choices they are making.

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8. We Know It Won’t Always Be This Way

This statement comes with a preface. It might actually always be this way if you continue to allow the addictive behavior to continue if you are involved with your loved one on a daily basis. If hard decisions are made and relationships are altered in the hopes of your loved one seeking out help, it is worth it.

Many in recovery had to reach their true “bottom” where they had nothing else to focus on but themselves and their addiction. When we allow the behavior to continue by minimizing the situation or making excuses for why our addicted loved one continues to abuse drugs or alcohol, we lose.

The real truth is being a part of the continued addiction is only causing more harm than good for the addicted loved one. They could either end up in jail due to drinking and driving or worse, dead because of an alcohol related car accident or a drug overdose. Drug and alcohol addiction is a serious issue and everyone involved with an addicted loved one should take the necessary steps to encourage recovery and positive change.

9. We Can’t Lose Hope

No matter how hopeless the situation may seem it can always improve. If you feel emotionally affected by your addicted loved one’s actions, seek out help. If you feel consumed by their addiction, there are many 12 step support groups that just focus on helping the family members who are affected by an addicted loved one. When you know you are not alone and others have the same concerns and issues as you do, it helps. Once you accept that you can do nothing to make your addicted loved one sober and focus on yourself first and foremost, healing begins.

There are ways to make your life more manageable because of your addicted loved one. The key lies with focusing on yourself. Things can get better once you let go of the situation and allow your addicted loved one to find their path to recovery on their own – for themselves and no one else.

Featured photo credit: Charles Bernelas via flickr.com

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Wendy Redden

Digital Advertising Account Manager, Music Blogger, Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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