Last week, we talked about addiction, and how the best new year’s resolution possible would be…
RESOLVED, 2013 is the year that the addiction ends.
The previous blog was directed at the addict himself or herself. This one is for the person who loves an addict, or is friends with an addict. You know who you are, and you know how difficult it can be. To see your boyfriend passed out in the bathroom. To see your girlfriend stuffing her feelings with food. To have a plan to take the kids to Sugarhouse Park, the Gateway, or a Jazz game, and then have to cancel because he isn’t fit to drive. Here in Salt Lake City and Utah county, we’ve also got a giant problem with people hooked on prescription pain meds.
You can read last week’s blog if you need clarification on why this is happening. But all the explanations in the world won’t get him sober behind the wheel. Nor are you satisfied by the thought that the addiction is wholly within the realm of the addict – that there’s nothing you can do, that the addict won’t end the addiction until s/he is good and ready, and you may as well not even try.
You want to know what you can do, and what you can do, now.
Here’s what you can do as the loved one of someone who has an addiction:
- Don’t enable: If you’re going to pretend that the addiction isn’t happening, you’re part of the problem instead of being part of the solution. Addicts tend to have enablers, who are people that by action or inaction help the addiction along. Sometimes the enabling is done with the best of intentions, as with a mom who takes care of the kids while dad is out at the bar. If you find yourself enabling an addict, take a good look at your motives. I can help you do that in my office.
- Confront: It is okay to tell the addict that this isn’t working for you. In fact, that it is a method of slow torture. That that addiction isn’t just killing the addict, but is also killing the relationship. That in numbing themselves, the addict is causing real pain to others and you.
- Make your case: Don’t be surprised if the addict says, “I don’t have a problem,” even as they’re worshipping at the porcelain shrine after a drinking bout. Do what you need to do to make your case. Take photos. Take videos. Show them the vid where they’re slobbering over themselves in front of the children. I hate to say it, but humiliation works sometimes. Challenge the addict to love themselves as much as you love him or her.
- Help find treatment resources: In the best of all possible worlds, the addict would do this for himself or herself. In the real world, they might not be equipped to do this. If you have medical insurance or even without it, there are outstanding in-patient and out-patient treatment centers. Some of these are publicly funded, or have religious support so the fee is manageable. There’s therapy and work with someone like me. There are 12-step groups which some people find very helpful, as well as alternative support groups.
As a loved one, as a friend, you are allowed to say to an addict, “I don’t want to watch you kill yourself.” The irony is that ultimately just about every addict will get treatment. That treatment will happen when the addict goes to jail. If it’s possible to end the addiction before that happens? So much the better.