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How To Help An Addict or Alcoholic You Love

What is it like to be in love with an addict or alcoholic?

The hard truth of the matter is that a lasting relationship with a person with an addiction is impossible so long as their addiction goes untreated. The highest priority for a person with a substance use disorder (SUD) is the object of their addiction, whether it’s drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. This means that their relationships will be subordinate to their addiction, and they will do whatever it takes, even if it means lying to and, in some cases, stealing from those closest to them to get their fix. This is why we see manipulation and deception often in those with addiction who are still in the process of denial. 

If you’ve had a relationship with them prior to their addiction, it may seem as though they’ve become a completely different person, and it may be hard to make sense of why they are able to behave and treat you and others the way that they do, but this is nature of addiction. Unfortunately, some relationships take a darker turn, involving harm to you and your family because of increasing abuse, whether physical or emotional. Some people with an addiction are willing even to break laws for their addiction, putting you and your family even more at risk.

How to love without enabling?

The challenge of maintaining a relationship with a loved one struggling with addiction is knowing the line between caring for them and enabling them in their addictive behaviors. Since we naturally care for those nearest and dearest to us, it’s hard to want to do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable, unloved, hurt or any negative emotion. But the reality is that keeping a person with an addiction accountable to consequences for their behaviors will typically bring those sorts of emotions. 

So, are we willing to love them by holding them accountable for the goal of long-term recovery, or do we only want to protect their emotions for short-term comfort while the damage grows and grows over time? This is what makes the difference between loving and enabling.

What are the stages of enabling?

The nature of enabling can shift from a stage of innocence (not knowing any better or lacking awareness of the addiction) to a stage of desperation (covering up, justifying, etc.). Just as the addiction will grow and worsen, so can enablement, which is why professional help is important.

How can I help my addict or alcoholic family member recover if they’re in denial about their addiction?

As previously mentioned, your loved one must face the consequences for their addictive behaviors, which is a way to communicate to them that they are not okay in their current state and that the people around them are not okay with it either. Some may call this tough love, given how unpleasant it can be to draw boundaries and stick to them with regard to an addicted loved one, but at the end of the day, enabling addiction ultimately does more harm than any of the uncomfortable feelings they might feel when you hold them accountable.

Unfortunately, it is difficult for families to overcome the temptation to enable and to think clearly and objectively about boundary setting and accountability for addiction. This is why professional intervention services are helpful, as well as having a third party who knows the ins and outs of addiction and what it takes to effectively treat it.

If your loved one accepts treatment, finding the right addiction treatment program is pivotal to the longevity of their journey to recovery.

How do I help my loved one get help for their addiction?

If you are a family member or partner of someone with an alcohol use disorder or addiction, it can be extremely helpful for you to get guidance from a professional in order to learn how you may be enabling, how to set limits, and ultimately set a path for your loved one to accept help. We will often work with a spouse, parent, or family initially just for this purpose.

Professional help and guidance are your best chance at helping your loved one with everything from professional intervention to medically assisted detox and outpatient rehabilitation. This is especially important in cases where there is an underlying anxiety disorder, depression, or some other mental health condition. Our psychiatrists and psychologists are specially trained to treat “dual diagnosis,” where one has to overcome addiction as well as a mental health condition.

At Fifth Ave Psychiatry, we give executives in New York City a feasible way to get the addiction and mental health care they need without disrupting their professional lives.

We treat a wide range of conditions, including:

We are a team of highly trained Psychologists and Psychiatrists who use the most progressive therapeutic treatment approaches, including medication if necessary. 

Call us, and we can design a personalized program just for you.

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