Watching a loved one struggle with addiction is not something that many people are prepared for. It can be very unexpected and may send a shock through the family dynamic.

Many family members may feel lost as to how to help their loved ones best. It is okay to not know where to start with support. The important thing is that we are willing to show up, educate ourselves, and provide our love and encouragement. Recovery is a long process with many ups and downs, and unfortunately, not everyone who struggles with substance misuse will receive love and support from their family. Simply being there for your loved ones can mean the world to them. Our presence in our loved ones’ lives during recovery from substance use may be the most important gift we can give them.

Family Members’ Mental Health

Although there is some research regarding the relationships between family members and loved ones struggling with addiction, people too often have not heard other members of families affected by addiction talk about their experiences. This may make them feel alone as they process their emotions about the situation. With this lack of representation of people who are caring for loved ones struggling with addiction, it can be easy for caretakers and family members to neglect their own mental health and emotional needs.

While this neglect may initially feel selfless and thoughtful, it is important to remember that we must take care of ourselves first before taking care of others. If there are times that we feel angry or negative emotions toward our loved ones, it is okay. If we have a safe place to process these emotions with others who understand, we may be able to deal with them in a healthy way and avoid building resentment.

Addiction as a Disease

One of the first things we should learn and remember is that addiction is not a choice. Our loved ones struggling with substance use may make decisions that we don’t agree with, and we may find it difficult to understand their thought process at times. Substance use changes the way the brain works and may influence people to do things that they otherwise would not. The need for treatment can be reflected in the severity of our loved one’s addiction. We should keep this in mind before reacting to their actions. They may not mean to hurt us, but they may make bad choices while stuck in the addiction cycle.

Relationship During Pre-addiction

The progression from substance use to pre-addiction to full addiction may happen at varying speeds, depending on the substance involved and various life and emotional factors. In some cases, this progression can be slow and may go undetected for years.

Consistent and loving communication with a loved one who is engaging in worrying levels of substance use may be a lifeline for them. Remember, the sooner bad habits with substance use are addressed, the easier the addiction cycle will be to avoid or escape. When we can be open and honest with one another, free of judgment, we can show up for our loved ones in a way that they may not have experienced before. We can help them to be vulnerable and talk about their emotions. Creating a judgment-free space can encourage them to be honest about their substance use and their emotional state. It may also make them more willing to accept when they need to get help.

Substance Use Education

In many situations, it is helpful to learn more and be genuinely curious before taking action. When it comes to substance use, it is a good idea to educate ourselves on the nuances of addiction and how substance use affects our loved ones. We can then form our thoughts based on factual information, which can help us behave in healthy and compassionate ways. We should be careful not to hold the addiction against our loved ones. It is easy to accidentally slip into a mindset of blame, but doing so is unproductive and detrimental. Support groups for family members of those struggling with addiction can provide safe places for us to process our complicated emotions and avoid treating our loved ones harshly.

Support Without Enabling

As with many things in life, there can be gray areas regarding supporting our loved ones who struggle with substance use. Understanding the difference between supporting and enabling is important. With this understanding, we can support our loved ones without negating the crucial role of their own agency and accountability in recovery. We should not try to save our loved ones from the consequences of their actions, but we can pick them up and encourage them while they recover and seek to make positive changes.

Lifelong Recovery

The process of addiction recovery can feel long and heavy. After our loved ones complete treatment, we may think, “Okay, great! They are recovered; it’s done!” However, the reality is that the recovery process is lifelong, and our loved ones will always need support.

Treatment centers provide countless support groups for people in recovery, their family members and friends, and for both sets together. Recovery involves experiencing a lot of feelings that may be overwhelming, and it is important that everyone involved has a safe place to discuss and process them. Recovery offers a second chance at life and a new approach to how we interact with our loved ones.

Discovering that a loved one is struggling with substance abuse can be painful. We may not know where to start with supporting them through this time. It is okay to not know what to do, and it is important to take things at a pace that feels right for each individual. Creating self-care routines to ensure that we are in the right state of mind to give our love and support to others is important. We should educate ourselves on how addiction works and remind ourselves that it is not a choice. At times it can be tough to understand why our loved ones make the decisions that they do, but the addiction cycle can be hard to break. Fortunately, a treatment center can help. Finding support groups and like-minded people who have been through similar situations can help ease the stress. Call 449 Recovery at (949) 435-7449.