Addiction can be harmful in so many ways: physically, mentally, emotionally and financially. It can also damage relationships (some to the point that they are beyond repair) and for both parties, the loss can be devastating.
Those who are living with an addiction need their loved ones to accept them for who they are and to understand what they’re going through. Unfortunately, often, family members and friends don’t understand that addiction is a mental health disorder. Someone who is addicted can’t simply put down their substance of choice and decide never to use it again.
Repairing relationships is hard work, and for some, the dynamic may never be the same. But it’s important to try. Here are some of the best tips for salvaging a relationship with a loved one when addiction has torn you apart:
Communicate: For any relationship to work, there needs to be honest communication. Both parties need to learn to speak and listen in equal measure and to be sincere about the way they feel. Honesty is imperative, as is remembering to refrain from being judgmental.
Get involved: Addiction can make relationships suffer in so many ways. Marriages and loving relationships take a backseat to the substance, and other family members suffer because a person battling substance abuse will usually isolate himself/herself from others. Remember that it’s OK to allow someone to get close, and that addiction makes us do things we never thought we would.
Get help, and stick with it: One of the hardest things about having a substance abuse disorder is the fact that while you want to make things better, it’s hard for the people who are watching you suffer through it to believe you will really change. The only way to make them see how hard you’re working is to keep at it. Commit to spending 90 days in an addiction treatment center. Attend meetings, change your lifestyle, cut negative people from your life, and make an effort. It’s the only way to truly repair any damage that may have been done.
Keep realistic expectations: It’s important for both parties to keep realistic expectations when it comes to healing and moving on. Addiction can be overcome, but it has lasting effects. For most who have suffered through it, there will never be a day when they don’t think about the substance and its power, and sometimes relapses do happen. It doesn’t mean the individual is weak; there are many factors involved that require patience and understanding. Keeping realistic expectations are important for everyone involved.
Addiction is a serious beast, but with a little guidance and patience, sufferers and their loved ones can find peace and solace.
Constance Ray started the organization Recovery Well with the goal of creating a safe place for people to share how addiction has affected them, whether they are combating it themselves or watching someone they care about work to overcome it. The goal is to share stories of hope from survivors who know that the fight against addiction is one worth having, because no matter how it affects you, life can get better.