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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 May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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