Living with an addict is hard and at times it may even come to the point of being impossible. Addicts tend to at one point or another be consumed by their addiction which means that their behavior starts to incorporate more lying, manipulation, emotional abuse and stealing, all of which are detrimental to a healthy functioning relationship with family members. Setting boundaries with an addict can be hard, as family members strive to help in anyway that they can, often unintentionally or unknowingly enabling the addict to continue in their addiction. This ultimately brings loved ones to the ultimate question of what is the best way to help an addict that lives with you?
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines substance addiction as being characterized by the inability to consistently abstain from using and as being progressive, chronic and fatal if left untreated. Although substance addiction can vary in symptoms from person to person, overall behaviors and tendencies are usually shared. Addiction slowly progresses if left untreated which means so do the manipulative and hurtful behaviors addicts use to fuel their addiction. If you notice that a loved one is exhibiting substance use behaviors (sluggishness, red eyes, slurred words, paranoia, stealing, lying etc.) a way to begin to help them through the addiction is trying to open up lines of communication with them. The addict is often in denial, so approaching the subject in a supportive way can be beneficial. Addicts are usually unable to realize the extent of their addiction and having a conversation around what behaviors or things about them you have noticed and sharing that in a supportive way with them can possibly help them to open up about their struggles with using. This can bring them to the awareness that their addiction is not as concealed as they may have thought.
Where an addict is in their openness to receive help may determine what ways a loved one can offer support. Seeking out medical or professional advice is recommended in order to make sure that an addict is able to receive the proper care that they need. Offering to do this with them, supporting them emotionally or with encouraging words or thoughts through this process can be beneficial. It’s terrifying to open up about addiction, let alone navigate through the treatment options without feeling overwhelmed. If an addict is unwilling to receive help, setting consistent boundaries with them is imperative if there is to be any sort of change. This could
mean being kicked out of the house or setting a limit by no longer providing them with money or resources unless they seek treatment. Seeking counseling or professional help to decide which boundaries are appropriate for your specific loved one is recommended as well. Family members could use professional recommendations or emotional support in being able to not only set boundaries with an addict, but to also be consistent with those boundaries. Al-Anon or Nar-
Canon meetings can also be helpful (these are support groups for family members with an addict in their life – they are also everywhere and free!) in learning more about how others set boundaries with their loved ones. Learning as much as one can about addiction can help family members understand it better and lead to more information on the best ways that they can help their loved one.
Living with an addict never gets any easier until the addict is able to get the help that they need. Addiction is progressive, chronic and has the potential to become fatal. Learning more about what treatment options are available and what the best ways that family members can support their loved ones is vital if family member want to help save their lives. Sometimes family members can enable and actually help an addict stay in their addiction, often by providing resources and money to them unintentionally or unknowingly. Talking to a professional or attending an Al-Anon meeting can be powerful, and help family members understand the way an
addict thinks and behaves. Change is hard but it may be necessary in order to save lives.