Families and caregivers know how difficult it is to cope with a loved one who abuses alcohol or drugs. It is important to realize that family members cannot stop their relative’s substance abuse. They can, however, avoid covering it up or doing things that make it easy for the relative to continue the denial. Families can learn what they can do about the problem, but they must be realistic that much of it is out of their hands. The following is a list of things to do and not do if your loved one is addicted:
1. Don’t regard this as a family disgrace. The addiction of a loved one does not reflect on the integrity of family members. Addicts make their own choices for a variety of reasons.
2. Don’t nag, preach, or lecture. This will only create resentment and the user may lie or make promises that cannot be kept. Recovery from addiction may only come about once the user makes a decision to seek treatment.
3. Don’t use the “If you loved me…” approach. The addict may not be able to control their usage through will power alone, and your appeal will only increase their guilt.
4. Avoid threats unless you think them through carefully and definitely intend to carry them out. Specific actions may be required to protect oneself and others but idle threats only demonstrate that you do not mean what you say and that you are prepared to live with the user’s addiction.
5. Don’t hide or dispose of any alcohol or drugs. This may make the addict more desperate and he or she will simply find new ways of getting more drugs or alcohol. Most users will also get more creative at hiding their supply.
6. Don’t use alcohol or drugs with the addict on the grounds it will make him or her use less. This condones the substance abuse and delays the possibility of the addict seeking help.
7. Don’t be jealous of the method of recovery that the addict chooses. The addict may form close bonds with others in treatment. See this as a positive step and not a rejection of the love and care they receive at home.
8. Don’t consider relapses as a total loss. Relapse is common in recovery much like a smoker who “slips” on occasion but eventually quits.
9. Allow the addict to experience the consequences of their alcohol or drug use. Don’t clean up after the user or rescue him or her from penalties imposed by school, work, or the police.
10. Do offer love, support, and understanding in recovery. Remember that you can only control your own reactions and behaviors. The user must learn to control his or her own recovery process.