If we are a loved one of an alcoholic/addict, we must consistently be asking ourselves this question: Am I helping their recovery or am I helping their addiction?

We all know the words: codependent, overly attached, loving them to death, etc. For many alcoholics/addicts, us “loved ones,” as difficult as it may sound, are the ones who keep them sick. As a counselor, I would like to tell you that my family is immune to this issue, but it is not. I have a cousin who is in his 30’s, addicted to drugs, lives with his mother, goes from job to job, and cannot balance a checkbook. The few times I have presented to his mother the idea of boundaries, she stated, “I simply can’t do that to my child. I love him too much”.

The irony in this family dynamic is that her love is selfish. She doesn’t want to let go of her son for fear of how she may feel, when in actuality, it is this same “love” that has allowed him to make it into his 30’s and be completely unprepared for life. This codependent dysfunctional family system, which is cultivated in the seed of shame and low self-esteem, is part of the problem.

As loved ones of alcoholics/addicts, we have to be part of the solution. We have to be willing to make the difficult decisions to love them enough to set boundaries that do not reward their negative behavior. All too often, residents will come into the treatment center, at the request of their loved ones, and will remain defiant throughout the treatment episode, usually until they can get the loved one to cave in, at which time they will return back to the same environment having acquired little to no change.

Herein lies more irony; it is this same defiant behavior that screams that they need treatment. If the alcoholic/addict is telling you that they do not need treatment, yet they are incapable of adhering to a few simple rules of a treatment program, then this is a clear indicator that they are not as emotionally mature and independent as they may lead you to believe. The unwillingness to engage in institutional rules and listen to those who have loved them the most is a clear indicator of their issues. Loved ones, we all must be educated on healthy boundaries; love our alcoholic/addicts enough to say “no” and never question whether we are part of the problem or part of the solution.

By Carl Culver