The last couple of weeks the blog has been focused around addiction. This will be the last post about addiction (for a while anyways) and I thought I would touch on the role family and friends play. It is such a challenging experience to watch someone you love and care about struggle with any sort of addiction. To me it seems like watching a slow motion car accident; you can see that the outcome is going to be bad, but there is nothing you can do to stop it. Many people watching a loved one with an addiction feel very helpless. Helpless and scared. You can see the path your loved one is going down and it is terrifying to think that they may not turn around. This fear, as well as the need to help, can sometimes lead to enabling.
Enabling someone with an addiction means making it more practical or easier for them to engage in the behavior or substance use. It might mean things like giving them money or driving them to locations where the person engages in the substance use/behavior. Often this can be done with good intentions as we maybe don’t want to seem mean or unsupportive. Enabling behavior though only makes it more challenging for the loved one to change their habits and definitely makes the whole situation more difficult for the person doing the enabling.
I encourage anyone who has a loved one with an addiction to keep firm boundaries. You can still be supportive and loving while being firm that you do not support the behaviors they are engaging in. I am reminded about one of the very first posts I did about boundaries, click here for the link. In order to be able to help anyone else, you have to help yourself first. Ensure you are practicing positive self-care and doing good things for yourself. There may come a point where in order to best look after yourself you may decide that you have to limit or end your contact with the person who is struggling with the addiction. This is okay. It does not mean that you don’t love or care about them. It just means you are not willing to be pulled down with them. If or when they decide to get help, you can be there as their biggest cheerleader. We sometimes want so badly to try and help someone overcome addiction, but we cannot force someone to seek help or be ready for help. At the end of the day, while it can be heartbreaking to watch someone we love struggle with addiction, they ultimately need to decide that they want things to be different. Just as someone dealing with an addiction should not have to go through the journey alone, nor should their supporters. Please don’t be afraid to reach out for your own supports whether that be counselling or groups like Al-Anon. This is a tough position to be in, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.