By: Kristen Pettaway, MA LPC Liberty University | Clinical Case Manager Intern Destination Greatness, PLLC
Substance use and abuse are rampant in our communities. For many family and friends of the addicted encouraging efforts may be exhausting and frustrating. The addiction is controlling your loved one and there seems to be nothing that you can do about it. Over the past several weeks I have had the opportunity to collaborate with members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Al-Anon. While attending these meetings I have identified at least five ways that the concerned party of the addict can do to encourage their loved one without offending or becoming frustrated in the process.
AA has been in operation for more than 80 years with NA, and Al-Anon later establishing groups based on the AA principles. These perceptive groups welcome anyone who has decided that the addictive behavior has become harmful enough to their health and well-being that sobriety is the only option. While a guest at these different group meetings I walked away with 5 very important ways to help the recovering addict in his or her sobriety.
- To eliminate the frustration: Stop telling the addict about his or her addictive behavior. In order for the behavior to change the addict must be willing to change it. It is not enough for the family and friends to want the addict to quit his or her behavior. The addict must want to change his or her behavior on their own. When the addict is ready to commit to becoming sober they must first admit that there is a problem. No one can tell the addict that he or she has a problem that needs to be fixed, that revelation must come from within.
- Apply the Twelve-Step and the Twelve Traditions to your own life. Once the addict has made a commitment to change he or she must do the work. Family and friends cannot do the work for the addict. The family and friends have their own specific job to do for their own well-being and the addict has specific things to do to work on their stuff. Whatever that stuff is, each person is challenged to work the Twelve-Steps and the Twelve Traditions of the program on their own.
- Love the addict through their recovery. Since family and friends cannot do the work for the addict, trying and continuing to force your will onto the addict is futile and a mere waste of your time. The only thing you can do is to continue to love them through it, as much as you can. Prayer will help you help yourself and the addict build strength to go on. Extending grace to the addict whenever things go wrong. Forgiveness is a powerful tool. To see the addict as yourself in the eyes of God who showered you with His grace and love and welcomed you into His presence.
- Set clear boundaries. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Just because you love the addict through his or her recovery does not mean you become their doormat. Avoid becoming passive and enable the behavior. As the addict’s support system you must also take care of yourself and the other family members who are going through the struggle with you and the addict. As the supportive person, you may need to demonstrate some “tough love” at times so the addict knows that a boundary has been crossed. It is not uncommon for an addict to experience jail time, homelessness, or something worst before he or she can turn the situation around. Setting boundaries is an important instrument to provide safety for you and your family.
- And finally, exercise some patience. Live your life and allow the addict to live his or her life as well. The concerned family and friends cannot control the behavior or take care of the addict nor is it your responsibility to do so. The addict must take control of their own well-being. Even if the addict is a child under the age of 18 years of age. Parents are physically responsible for the well-being of the child but they cannot control their feelings, emotions, or behavior. But if there are clear boundaries and rules in place everyone will know what will happen if one of those boundaries has been crossed. It is not uncommon for an addict to go through recovery or rehab several times before he or she is able to quit. Continue to care and support him or her for the effort toward recovery.
Until next time, be blessed.
At Destination Greatness, we realize that addiction may co-exist with other diseases. Yes, the addiction is a disease. While some can experience using a substance and not become addicted others may become addicted after the first experience. At Destination Greatness, we will help the individual explore the areas that cause a pivotal role in the addiction, while sobriety and abstinence remain the goal to foster change in the overall quality of life. Destination Greatness, PLLC is available to anyone who has a desire to change.