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Steps to take when a loved one has an addiction

Posted at 7:38 AM, Feb 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-22 11:28:06-05

When people suffer from addiction, it can be devastating to those they love, who feel powerless to help them.

If you have friends or family members with addictions, accepting you cannot help on your own is the first step. Addiction often requires professional help beyond the capacities of addicts' inner circles of support.

"In most situations, loved ones can help 'raise the bottom,' bypassing a great deal of suffering along the way," Psych Central says. "Whether the addict is 'ready' or not, getting involved is an act of love, which can be a powerful force in breaking through addiction."

Before you take action, arm yourself with the knowledge of what you can and cannot do to help.



Things you shouldn't do

Make them quit: As devastating as this sounds, it's true. Quitting and abstaining must be their choice and has to come from within. Once people have a serious addiction, you can't control them.

Limit their resources: You can try to stage an intervention or remove them from the situation, but for lasting change to come, it must come from the addicts. Realize addiction overrides their brain, and they will lie, manipulate and steal to do whatever they can to support addiction, even while going through recovery, if not done properly.

Be deeply involved: Parents, friends and spouses will naturally want to be deeply involved in the recovery programs and processes their loved ones are going through, but it's important to remember this is not a homework project. This is something you simply cannot do for them if a lasting result is desired.

Give them a pass: You also must be willing to allow them to have consequences for their actions. If a requirement of being in your home is to be sober, and then they show up drunk or high, you must stick to the consequences you have set in place. They will be upset at first, but your word must be followed.

Things you should do

Talk: The best things you can do upon finding out about loved ones' addictions are talking about it, getting educated and taking care of yourself.

Keep your mind open: It is important to be able to talk in a clear, open, non-judgmental way when discussing addiction with addicts. Encourage, support and maintain a relationship of trust, but do not take the recovery process upon yourself. Effective recovery must come from addicts, no matter how much you want to step in and attempt to relieve the burden.

Educate yourself: Being educated about an addiction will help you in knowing how and why your loved ones may act, what triggers desires and how to set boundaries in your relationship. Seek and insist on professional help for your loved ones and yourself, if necessary. Do not allow yourself to become abused or manipulated, and don't assume, once rehab is completed, all will be well forever. You must be loving but unmovable.

Pacific Bay Recovery understands the challenge of watching a friend, family member or loved one struggle with addiction. We are here to help.

Visit for information or to request a consultation.