How to Truly Accept a Loved One With an Addiction Problem
Addiction changes people, and usually not for the better. If you’ve ever watched someone struggle with substance abuse, you’ve lived through the truth of that statement. Watching a loved one backslide into the illness feels less like worrying for someone you know and more like mourning.
It’s an awful position to be in: Guilt, anger, disappointment, frustration, and a million other negative emotions rear their heads when you watch a loved one falter under the weight of a substance abuse problem. At its worst, the disease can make building a wall to keep out your friend or family member feel a lot easier than opening the door to let them in.
Looking for the Best
This sense of loss can grow even more intense if you watch a loved one develop an addiction when you’ve known them for years, before they started struggling with it. It can feel like you’re dealing with a stranger — but you’ll only be able to provide true acceptance when you remember that the person you know and love is in there, trying to get out.
That isn’t to say that the addiction won’t permanently change their personality; it might. And it’s never certain that they will in fact overcome the affliction. Having that expectation can cause resentment if the change doesn’t come as quickly as you’d like.
But at the core, your loved one struggling with addiction is still the same person you’ve always known. Keeping this in mind is as much for your comfort as it is for theirs: Think of it as a kind of forgiveness.
Speaking of forgiveness, accepting someone with an addiction problem means recognizing that they may not always act rationally. For their sake and yours, don’t ascribe meaning to every word they say or everything they do.
Finding the Line
It’s also important to keep yourself from being manipulated and not to give your loved one a chance to destroy your trust. Addicts have a knack for isolating people, intentionally or otherwise, and for lying about certain topics — their use, money, etc.
Avoid loaning them money if you expect to see it back. Feel free to lie and say you don’t have it if just saying no will make you feel bad; remember, you aren’t dealing with a rational person. And if you feel like you’re being used, even for things as simple as rides or small favors, don’t feel like you aren’t being supportive by saying no, even if that means making excuses to spare feelings.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do for an addict is to care — about them, their situation, and their troubles. Don’t think of their problems as personal failings or weaknesses, but as symptoms of an illness. Addiction clouds people’s judgment and sometimes pushes them toward poor decisions, but it’s an illness nonetheless. As long as you let them know that the door is open and that support — real support, not just short-term favors — is always there, you’re doing more for them than most.
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