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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, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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