Over 23.5 million people in the United States suffer from some form of substance use disorder. This means that most of us know someone who is struggling with an addiction, and one in five of us will have a close family member or relation who is addicted. If your loved one is addicted to a substance, you’re not alone.
Unfortunately, substance abuse changes people. They often withdraw, become manipulative, and their entire life may center around getting more of their substance. Family members suffering from addiction, even those you were very close to, may constantly request money, ask you to pay rent, ask you to take on responsibilities, and ask you to lie for them. As a loved one, you obviously want to help them, and that means saying no.
How to Say No
Addiction changes how people act and react. A formerly calm person may get aggressive and angry when you say no. Your loved one may attempt to manipulate you. They may also attempt to push your boundaries to see what they can get away with. If you say no, make sure you can stick to it. If you say no and do it anyway, your loved one will take advantage.
- Keep calm. Even if your loved one is angry, you can calmly explain why you can’t do anything. “I’m sorry, I don’t have money for you”, “I can’t do that because I’m at work”, “I’m sorry but no”,
- Don’t make it about addiction, make it about them. Addicts face social stigma, and they may feel that you care more about them using than you care about their health. Instead, try phrases that say you care about them. “I can’t give you money because I’m scared you will use it to hurt yourself with drugs”, “I don’t want to do that because I’m afraid for you,” “I’m afraid you’ll get in trouble if I take you”,
- Stand your ground. If you say no, keep it at no. Expect the addict to use anything in their power to get you to change your mind, even hurtful things. Keep saying no, or “I’m sorry, but no.” Walk away if you have to.
If you love someone, it’s important to understand that doing something that allows them to buy more drugs is hurting them, not helping them. This is known as enabling behavior.
Understanding Enabling Behavior
Enabling is the process of allowing an addiction by offering support, care, or money to someone struggling with addiction. In some cases, it’s impossible to avoid, in other cases, it sneaks up on you. A child may start struggling and you help them with rent, only to realize months down the road that they’re using the money for drugs. A partner may have you take on more and more of the household responsibilities until you’re doing everything and they’re drinking. By stepping up and taking those responsibilities, lending money, paying rent, and buying groceries, you’re giving your loved one the foundation to continue using.
Stepping back, deciding what is helping them stay addicted, and what will happen if you withdraw your support can give you the perspective to make better and more informed decisions.
Seeing Past the Manipulation
Addicts are often very manipulative. Most will focus on getting more of their substance, even at your expense. This means that they will lie, offer excuses, and otherwise work to deceive you to get what they want. Your loved one may tell you they aren’t using, that they are in recovery, that they need money to take a course or class they need for a job, that they got a job and need something to help with rent till their paycheck comes and so on. Some people are very convincing.
While it’s difficult to say that you can’t trust your loved one, you probably can’t. Unless they can prove that they’re using something for a good reason or they can prove they are in recovery, the chances of any problem being a fabrication are high.
Creating an End Goal
If you’re currently helping your loved one, withdrawing that support will hurt. It will often have ramifications, and things may get considerably worse before they get better. Your addicted loved one may get angry and stop talking to you, they may lose their apartment or home, they may end up in jail.
It’s important to consider the possible ramifications of any decision, create an end goal for that decision, and work towards it. For example, if you want your loved one to go to rehab, you can say that and work towards it.
“I will help you, but I won’t pay for your addiction. Go to rehab first”
“I’m worried about you, I’ll pay your rent but you need to get help – I’ll drive you myself”
“I cannot help you anymore until you get treatment, I don’t want to help you hurt yourself”
While there is a risk in putting a condition on support, you can say that you are there, conditionally, providing you say that it’s about them and their health and their well-being.
Avoiding Tough Love
Tough love is the idea that you can withdraw completely and allow your loved one to crash and hit rock bottom on their own. Without any support at all, an addict is forced to confront the worst possible ramifications of their lifestyle choice and are therefore forced to go to prison, into therapy, or onto the street.
Unfortunately, tough love rarely works. People recover when they have the motivation and social support, and tough love can pull that away when people often need it the most.
Detaching with Love
Detaching with love is the concept of pulling away to protect your wellbeing and mental health, while remaining present in your loved one’s life. Here, you talk to them, offer support, listen nonjudgmentally, and care for that person – but you don’t invest in them. You know that your loved one is an addict so you don’t expect them to be better, you don’t stay up or put energy into their location or whereabouts, but you be there for them and get them into rehab when they’re ready. You may help to educate them, keep them safe, and offer Naloxone to prevent an overdose, but you do so knowing they are using or drinking.
If you can stop doing things for an addict who uses you to keep using and instead start being there emotionally, but in no other way, you can stop enabling without cutting your loved one off. When they need to talk, you can still be there, just not financially.
Getting your loved one into treatment is the best option to help them get better. A good rehab program will offer medically supported detox and will follow up with cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy to help rebuild your relationship, and aftercare to ensure that your loved one stays clean and sober.
If you or someone you love is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, contact us today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors – we’re here to help. Beginnings Treatment Centers is located in beautiful and sunny Southern California in Orange County, which has one of the best and most active recovery communities in the United States.