How to Provide Support when Someone you Love is an Addict

person sits alone beside lake feeling sad in quiet environment
by Vance Larson

They steal from you. Lie to your face. Break your heart. And in some cases, they physically assault you. This is what family addiction looks like. 

I have worked on and off in the addiction field for over 30 years. I have provided crisis, group, individual and family work. There is a lot of education and hours in my past regarding addiction. And when numerous family members of mine, slid into a world of drug and alcohol abuse, I was forced to use the very tools that I often provided to my clients. And for me, the biggest take away was, I will not go down that Rabbit Hole chasing you.

You cannot work harder than your client

I have mentioned in a past article that years ago, I befriended a famous psychologist. Some of his clients were the elite Hollywood crowd. Long story short, we had a casual conversation one day over the phone and the subject of addictions came up. He said that you cannot work harder than your client. I always knew that to be true, but truth be told, it took me years to honor that concept. A concept that since then has afforded me longevity in the mental health field. More importantly, it laid the foundation to my approach in dealing with my family members. 

Many are the times that when I was providing supportive services, I would encourage family members to be clear on their boundaries. There is a distinct difference from helping to enabling someone. And for me, when it came time to address my family members with their addictions, I was clear on this point. I would do the work and support them, but I would not watch them destroy their life and chase them down the Rabbit Hole. And while this is hard. It is necessary. 

In my case, I set up appointments to see a therapist for my family. I attended those sessions, despite my addict family member not joining us. I went to Al-Anon meetings to show support for my family members. Only to be told that this is family abandonment and cult like thinking. I offered placement in one of the rehabs that I taught at. My family member wouldn’t go. I went to Social Security and filled out their Medicare forms (all they needed to do was to sign up). They didn’t. And finally a very good friend of mine (who is a addiction medical specialist and former ER doctor) offered to visit them at the house for an informal Q&A, and they declined. See what I am getting at here? At what point do we step away in the spirit of self preservation? 

As much as I loved them, I left them

What did I learn from going to the therapist appointments and Al-Anon meetings? Absolutely nothing! Would I do it again? Without hesitation and twice on Sunday’s. I knew I was right in my approach to my family member. I knew the protocol and science was right as well. But getting that validation was priceless. In an insane time, it was comforting to know that I was not insane, despite the whole family telling me that I was being selfish. And as much as I loved them, I left them. 

Today I am on speaking terms with two of my family members. While I love them all deeply, I cannot go down the Rabbit Hole. Should my addict family member display the slightest interest or curiosity in getting help, I would drop everything to be there for them. But should that day not come, I am secure in the knowledge that I did my best for them. And despite the disease, I love them deeply. 

Should you find yourself in a similar situation, I implore you to use the tools that are available to you. See a coach, counselor or therapist. Talk with your doctor. Attend a few groups. Because their disease will spill over into your life. And if you’re not careful. Your good intentions will lead you down the Rabbit Hole. And there is nothing good resides there. 

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1 thought on “How to Provide Support when Someone you Love is an Addict”

  1. Deborah Fairfull

    Wise advise in an area that can be challenging, if not soul destroying if you don’t have the right support. When supporting an addict practice self-care by getting the professional support you need.

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