Watching a loved one struggle with substance abuse can put anyone through a complex range of challenging emotions. You may feel frustrated, sad, angry, and ultimately, helpless. While it may feel as if there’s little you can do to help your partner overcome addiction, there are ways to encourage them to get help. Here are some suggestions on how to support your partner in seeking help.
1. Educate Yourself on Addiction
There will be plenty of people who have advice on how to approach a loved one suffering from addiction. Unfortunately, what works for some people won’t work for everyone. Well meaning people from all walks your life have been dealing with addiction in ways that work for them-and they’ll have no trouble telling you what to do. What works for some may not work for you.
Take the time to learn about the disease of addiction. This may help frame your perspective and understand what your partner is going through, which will help you to take an approach that will land as supportive rather than critical.
2. Approach Them Without Judgment
When you’re ready to confront your significant other about their addiction , try not to take an accusatory tone. To avoid blame, consider using “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For instance, don’t say, “You’re ruining your life.” Instead, try saying “I’m worried about you and I want to help you.”
3. Be Loving Without Tolerating Addiction
While you should avoid shaming your loved one, you do need to let them know the consequences of their addiction on your life and any other loved ones or family members. Delivering the natural consequences of their actions is the opposite of enabling. The natural consequence of Alcoholic drinking is damage to the relationship-and they need to become aware of that. Unfortunately that’s news that you’re uniquely qualified to deliver.
You can still use “I” statements to describe how you’ve been affected by their condition. Try separating the person from the disease so you can remember the end goal: to get help for the individual you love and care about. Love the person and hate the disease.
4. Have a Detox Plan In Place
Do some research on detox centers and Intensive Outpatient programs in your area so you can get your loved one in for help immediately if they agree to seek help. Some outpatient and rehab centers have family nights that are open to the community. See if you can find one and attend so you can get a feel for the place, prior to asking your partner to attend.
5. As a last resort Consider an Intervention
If addressing the issue on your own is unsuccessful, you might consider planning an intervention.
You might want to enlist the help of a professional counselor to help keep the intervention on track. Never hold one at the last minute, however. Everyone involved should be coached with the guidelines laid out by the interventionist to prevent it from becoming a series of complaints and give it a chance for success. Interventions are as much for the family as they are the addict-the family can rest assured after an intervention that they’ve done everything they can to help their loved one.
If your loved one is struggling with addiction and you’re not sure what to do, turn to Chuck Beardsley, LCSW, from Mountainside Counseling Center in New Jersey. Specializing in working with family members of addicts and alcoholics, Chuck provides support for people with addiction in the family. To set up an appointment, call (908) 274-3189.