Addiction is a widespread issue, and most people know someone or is related to someone who has an addiction. This could be a spouse, parent, grandparent, uncle, sibling, partner or even close friend or co-worker.
While you may be aware that someone has a problem, knowing when and how to deal with them can be challenging. Obviously, the closer you are to the individual significantly impacts your ability to influence their behavior, as does how deeply involved you are in their personal lives.
If their behavior affects how you live your life, or your ability to work effectively and get things done, then you may want to consider having an intervention. Below is a list of the top 9 “Do’s & Don’ts” you should know before confronting an addict.
Do Intervene Compassionately
The first thing you have to do before you approach anybody about their addiction is to make sure that you are coming from a place of empathy and concern for their well-being. This is not a time to shame, belittle, or back someone into a corner. You also want to avoid telling them what an awful person they are, and talking about how their behavior is “negatively impacting” you. Remember, the intervention is about helping them, not unburdening yourself. Instead, tell them how it hurts you to watch them suffer, express your desire to see them happy and healthy and be willing to offer real-world solutions with viable treatment options that they can immediately begin.
Do Your Research
It is very important to know what you are talking about before you confront anyone about their addiction. Be sure to do your research and learn everything you can about the disease. Whether it is substance abuse, an eating disorder, gambling, shopping or cyber addiction, do your homework to educate yourself with the facts. Search the internet, read books, go to support groups and talk to a professional addiction specialist so that you can get a firm grip on the problem and a real plan for how to deal with it.
Do Acknowledge the Disease
One of the things that makes addiction so insidious is that often people forget that an addicted person is someone suffering from a chronic, incurable disease. The temptation to blame the individual is more common than you may realize and is in stark contrast to how we react when someone is diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, or any other malicious disease. This is not to say that addicts are not responsible for their actions, but addiction is an actual brain disorder. When you remember that they did not choose to become addicted it is easier to get your message across and hopefully get the person you care about the help they need.
Do Get a Support System
If you are a parent, spouse or child of an addict, the relationship you have with the addict is often emotionally loaded, if not tumultuous and toxic at times. When you are actively living with an addict, it is vital that you get a support system in place and take some time to work on yourself. Often times you may be codependent and enabling the addict without even realizing it. These relationships of complicated; to say the least, and it’s important to make sure that you pay attention to your needs and not just the needs of the addict.
Don’t Make Threats
When it comes to addiction, tough love rarely works. Ultimatums or forced treatment will only set everyone up for failure and disappointment. Bribery and idle threats might work temporarily but often fail in the long run. It’s important to remember that no matter how hard you try; or how much you love them, you cannot control the other person. They need to want help and be willing to work towards long term recovery. All you can do is set limits, change what you can, let go of that which you cannot change and do your best to know the difference.
This is tricky because often times we don’t quite know when we are enabling an addict. We all want to be helpful, and addicts can often be very manipulative and it’s not that easy to tell the difference sometimes. Examples of enabling behavior include giving them money, paying bills for an addict, lying for them, bailing them out of jail, excusing their actions or even taking the blame for something they did so they don’t get into trouble. You have to ask yourself if you are helping them by allowing them to evade the consequences of their choices related to their addiction. Your good intentions are most like only postponing recovery for the addict and most likely only making your own life more stressful and unmanageable.
Don’t Put Yourself in Danger
One of the hallmarks of addiction is unpredictability, and it is not unusual for people to behave erratically, or even violently. Sometimes those who are active in the grips of their addiction are abusive to vulnerable members of their family. If this sounds familiar you need to remove yourself immediately. One USA study found that 92% of assailants use alcohol or drugs on the day they commit an act of domestic violence. That does not mean that all abusers are addicts, but there is an undeniable correlation that should be acknowledged. Do not take any chances, you cannot help someone who is physically or mentally harming you and addiction is no excuse for abuse. Reach out to friends, family members, clergy, law enforcement, and emergency shelters for resources and protection and always put your personal safety first.
Don’t Expect Immediate Results
It’s an oversimplification to think that once someone goes to rehab, they will be 100% cured. Just like a diabetic needs to take insulin every day, long-term recovery is a lifetime process that needs to be managed daily. It’s also important to note that relapse is part of the recovery process and addicts will often feel like they have control only to fail and have to start over. Sometimes several times over the years. The important thing is that they get back on the road of recovery and don’t use it as an excuse to give up altogether. It’s also important not to put too much pressure on a recovering addict to achieve certain results or milestones, but instead be there to support their recovery process over the long haul. Allow your loved one the space they need to heal but don’t expect change to happen overnight. This again is why it is so important to have your support system so that you are not attaching your happiness and well-being on your loved one’s sobriety.
Don’t Give Up
No one imagines that addiction is something that they will have to deal with until it happens to them. You might become frustrated with your loved one if they refuse to get help or if they relapse, but don’t give up on them. Remember, addiction is a progressive disease, and your loved one will only get worse over time. If someone you care about is suffering from an addiction and you would like a free assessment by a counselor, then please contact the professionals at The River Rehab to explore what options are available.