So, you love an addict or alcoholic. You are not alone in that. Millions of people across the country struggle with addiction or alcoholism. The lucky ones have gotten treatment and are in recovery, but the majority are still actively using. Most of those people have people in their lives that love them- parents, siblings, relatives, friends, significant others. This position is an awful one to be in, and leaves many questioning how to act, what to say, what to do, or whether they should walk away from the relationship. Watching someone you care about succumb to addiction, and seeing them become a shell of a person, is incredibly difficult and painful.
Is the person you love in active addiction or alcoholism?
It is painful enough to watch someone you care about doing so much damage to their body and soul, but the behaviors and actions of an alcoholic can be hurtful as well. Most addicts will lie, cheat, steal, and use every manipulation tactic in the book in order to get that next drink or fix. “By any means necessary” often means the people we addicts and alcoholics love the most are the ones we end up hurting the most through our addiction and related behaviors. When you love someone who has no intention of getting sober, going to treatment, or quitting; when your words of reasoning and pleas for them to change have fallen on deaf ears; you have two reasonable options.
- Continue on till the bitter end. You may feel that if you simply continue to hang on, and support your loved one financially, emotionally, or otherwise, that they will eventually wake up and be a changed person, or will agree to treatment eventually. This is entirely within the realm of possibility. Every addict or alcoholic has a different experience, and some hit a “bottom” totally unexpectedly, and are able to get sober and turn things around. However, the risk taken here (and the reality of the situation) is that if your loved one is a true addict or alcoholic, they may never recover. This means that you may be in for years of being hurt by their behavior and by watching them fall apart.
- Set an ultimatum. Tell your loved one that they can either agree to go to treatment, or go to twelve step meetings, or you will set some clear boundaries. This can mean financially cutting them off, denying them access to your home, or ending the relationship. If this is the route you feel is necessary, an interventionist would be an immense help in deciding which ultimatums to issue and which boundaries to set. Further, NEVER allow yourself to feel guilty about setting limits and boundaries where an addict or alcoholic is concerned. The truth is, as much as you care about someone, all the love and support in the world cannot cure an alcoholic or addict. You have to take care of yourself first- and the emotional and financial drain that many of us become to our friends and family can get in the way of other responsibilities or relationships in your life. Also, you never know- if you take a stand, the person might agree to get help, or it may help them reach their bottom sooner.
Is the person you love a recovering addict or alcoholic?
Just because your loved one has gone to treatment, or decided to start going to AA, does not mean they will become a different person overnight. Change in recovery takes time, and family and friends of recovering addicts often get frustrated these changes are not immediate. You may still need to set certain boundaries or limitations to that relationship until they demonstrate a willingness to be different than they have been in the past. Reading “To Wives” in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous can be quite helpful- it can functionally be addressed to anyone that loves a recovering alcoholic or addict.
In either situation, the best thing you can do for yourself, both for direction and to gain an understanding of addiction/alcoholism, is attend Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meetings. These fellowships provide support group meetings for spouses, parents, children, siblings, and anyone else who has been affected by or is close with someone who is actively using or trying to recover. These meetings help people who are directly affected by someone else’s addiction to share their struggles with others who understand, and to use the same Twelve-Step principles to learn how to cope with their loved one’s problems in a healthy and productive manner. For your local chapter, visit http://al-anon.org/ or http://www.nar-anon.org/.
If your loved one is ready and willing to get help, call the treatment professionals at Serenity Acres today for more information on our program.