Caring about someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol is emotionally draining. It can also be a tremendous drain on the family finances. Whether the addict is a struggling youth or a distinguished professional, there may be little left of the family bank accounts, investments, even the home by the time they get help.
The advice for loved ones can be confusing: Support but don’t enable. Let go but stay close. Here are a few concrete ways to become part of the solution:
#1 Make an Honest Assessment.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell: Are you helping a loved one in crisis or enabling their addiction? Enablers:
• Comply with the addict’s requests for money, favors or things just to keep the peace
• Assume drug use is just a phase that will get better on its own
• Take on the addict’s responsibilities as their own
• Rescue the addict from difficult situations
• Give not only second but third, fourth and fifth chances
• Engage in destructive behaviors alongside the addict despite knowing the addict has a problem
• Do things for the addict that they should do for themselves, such as paying bills or fulfilling job or family responsibilities
Even though enablers act out of love and concern, their attempts to protect the addict prevent them from experiencing the full consequences of their actions, thereby prolonging the addiction. In contrast, true supporters allow the addict to experience the natural consequences of their actions and encourage them to accept help.
#2 Help Yourself.
Offering “help” that truly helps isn’t always second nature. For many families, it requires communicating and interacting in a way that is different from their norm. Enablers can learn to take care of themselves while offering healthy support by attending support groups for loved ones of addicts, such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. If an addicted loved one is in rehab, family members may be invited to participate in a family program or family counseling. It’s also advisable to seek individual counseling to address the many ways in which the addict’s behavior has changed your life …