The lives of those closes to us, for all our devotion and concern remain something we will always observe from the outside. And in few situations is this more painfully clear than when someone we care about is struggling with an addiction. Perhaps they don't view it as an addiction. They think they have matters well in hand and no matter what you say, you cannot convince them to seek help. It even seems that your insistence creates a rift. Even still, you love this person and want what's best for them.
It could be that a close family member or friend has an addiction that you were completely unaware of. And yet now you find yourself feeling helpless, not knowing how to give them the support they need or offer guidance. Regardless of where or how you find yourself in this situation, it isn't easy to cope with. Still, being there for that person is what matters most. Please take the following into consideration as you work to make yourself as much of a comfort to this individual as possible.
Accepting That It's Not Up to You
Dealing with someone else's addiction can be difficult for the simple fact that it is someone else's addiction. No matter how concerned you are, no matter how many signs you read that suggest the person is an addict, you simply cannot end the addiction. The only person who can admit to and begin the long road to recovery from the addiction is the addict his or herself.
Sometimes a family member or friend expects to rescue a person from their harmful behavior patterns through an intervention and unconditional love. This is simply unrealistic.
In order to be of use to this person, you must first step back and allow them to take responsibility for themselves and make the decision to get help. This can be extremely difficult, but it is necessary. You can't make that call; only they can. However, you should still offer your support and help them as an accountability partner if they are willing.
Doing the Necessary Research
Just because it isn't you fighting an addiction does not mean you should remain in ignorance. The best way to be of support is to try and understand exactly what it is the other person is going through. When you've identified the addictive behavior or substance, try to do some independent research. Also consider contacting a therapist or counselor that specializes in that type of addiction. The more you know, the more you may understand just how hard it is for your loved one is going through.
Also, consider getting counseling or joining a support group. Al-Anon, for example, exists as a support group for family members of alcoholics. Devoting time, energy and finances to aiding an addict can be very draining and involving. Don't neglect yourself during this process. Be educated about their needs and yours during this difficult time.
When Distance is a Factor
It's often easier to have a more supportive role when you have easy and frequent access to the individual coping with drug abuse. You may be able to have deep conversations in person more easily than on the phone. While it is true that you can be open and honest on the phone, these discussions in person can be far more reassuring. You can make eye and physical contact, which may help the person feel they have a more present sense of comfort and understanding than they would if you were halfway across the country.
If you happen to be across the country from the friend or family member, consider taking the time to visit them. Perhaps make plans to visit for a couple of weeks, preferably during a time period where they would be checking into rehab. See them off and if possible keep up contact. Visit them and after you've departed the area, call or write frequently.
Often, it isn't so much the distance as the dedication that is shown that can make all the difference. Sometimes all a person battling addiction needs to know is that they have a strong system of support. If you can be that support system or part of an existing support system made up of other friends and family members, you're another voice that is saying to that individual that you believe in their ability to come back from the brink.
It is never easy to love or support someone who is coming to terms with an addiction. But love isn't easy; it is given because the persons matter to us. And when someone matters to you and they need you, it is up to you to do what you can to be there for them.
More from parenting