We end up inadvertently harming ourselves as we enable our loved ones.
You’re probably reading this because you want to help an addict close to you. And the closer they are, a parent, a child, a partner, or a good friend, the harder it is to do. The biggest problem is: we make certain mistakes that ordinarily seem intuitively correct in most situations.
But when it comes down to how to help an addict, it’s a whole other arena. Addiction is a debilitating disorder of the mind. It causes personality shifts, behavioural deviancies, and improper boundary issues.
So you need to look at the role you play in your loved one’s life and consider these points. They will help guide you in pulling the addict or alcoholic back from the brink. Or, at least, keep you sane while going through an incredibly stressful time.
You shouldn’t blame yourself.
In our experience, addicts and alcoholics turn out the way they do partly because of genetics. There does seem to be evidence of a genetic component, hence it being labelled by psychiatrists as a disorder. Most disorders have a congenital aspect.
Disorders are not your fault. But addicts are highly manipulative, and they try to avoid responsibility for their actions. Also, they use deflection tactics. If you’re trying to help an addict confronting them on their drinking or using, they may try and get you to focus on how you’re the one who caused it in the first place.
Or, if not, then you may blame yourself anyway. Question your own role in their lives and what led to their poor life choices.
All this does is place the burden of guilt on you. But if you do blame yourself, you’ll find it harder to intervene when it’s appropriate to get them to stop.
Playing down their bad behaviour.
Certain things are just not acceptable in our society. We have social norms for a reason. It’s so people can live their lives in relative peace and harmony with each other. But for addicts and alcoholics typically break societal rules. And legal ones. Such as being overly flirty with someone who obviously doesn’t want their attention. Or driving after having more than one drink.
Statistically, most road accidents (and deaths) that occur are caused by driving under the influence — even if the person doesn’t appear drunk.
“Oh, you know how he is..!” is not an acceptable social or legal defence for misconduct or breaking the law.
Even simply being very rude to others is unacceptable. Would your loved one be that way if they weren’t drinking or drugging? Were they that way prior to drinking or drugging?
If you help an addict, what you’re actually doing is playing the rescuer, in a PR capacity, for them. Which brings us to the next point.
Don’t be a rescuer.
This one’s tricky. But a big aspect of enabling addicts is allowing them to get away with their addiction-caused calamities consequence-free. Consequences are a large part of the process of getting an addict or alcoholic to ask for help — and into a treatment centre.
Not that if the situation is dire enough, you don’t have legal avenues to pursue… whether your loved one wants the help or not. In fact, it’s a myth that helping someone to overcome their addiction requires their “having to want to stop”.
(We’ve seen many addicts come through our doors who were completely resentful at being there in the first place. And leave clean, serene, and enthusiastic for a new chance at life.)
But unless that “rescue” is an intervention, then it probably isn’t helpful. They need to make a connection between their actions (with its resulting consequences) and their drinking or drugging problem.
The only rescuing that should be done is booking them into a facility where they can break their denial of damage done by drugs and drink.
Accepting their promise to “change”.
It doesn’t matter if you give an addict an ultimatum and they promise to change their ways. They’ll most certainly go back to the bag or the bottle before long. That’s because, as we mentioned, it is a disorder they suffer from.
And disorders can only be treated by some sort of medical or therapeutic intervention. For one thing, detoxes – which we offer – are an important first step.
Without a proper detox, the body simply craves the substance too much for the addict or alcoholic to overcome. And in some cases, like with alcohol, not having a proper, medically-monitored detox — such as with our doctors and nurses — can lead to fatal results in the withdrawal phase.
But it’s not just the body, it’s the mind that’s affected. Their brain chemistry has changed because of their addiction. They may even mean it when they say they’ll change, but a few days later, and your loved one will be back at it — and probably in stealth mode.
Addicts and alcoholics can be very resourceful. Wouldn’t you be if there was a substance that felt as vital to you as the oxygen you breathe? That’s why time in a treatment centre is always recommended.
Trying to do this journey on your own.
Many people don’t realise how serious this disorder is. And they think that their love and care is enough. Or that if they use discipline as a means of exerting pressure, they can get their addict child to step in line (and not snort it).
This is a significant mistake. We, as the experts, have spent many years, in fact well over twenty, in dealing with addicts from all walks of life.
And one thing is certain. Without the help of professionals, you won’t succeed in getting this person to stop. Would you conduct surgery on them if they needed a back operation? Unless you actually are a spinal surgeon, no. No, you wouldn’t.
Addiction is incredibly complex as a disorder as it distorts the worldview of the person living through it.
The addict or alcoholic has integrated their substance of choice so much into their life, that it is now an extension of themselves. Kind of like a metaphorical parasite twin. If you need to, bring them in for an assessment, we’ll best be able to advise you on the treatment options open to them.
You’re not alone in this fight for your love one’s body and soul — not when you join forces with us.
For more information on how to help drug addicts or substance abuse and getting yourself into rehab to start a new life, call Houghton House now:
office hours: 011 787 9142
24/7 emergency help line: 079 770 7532