Helping a loved one with an addiction is not an easy feat. Here are eight rules you must never break when dealing with your loved one’s addiction.

Addiction hurts.

You can see your loved one become triggered and turn to addictive behaviors. Although you want them to break their negative patterns, how can you help them? What do you do in the situation?

Despite your good intentions, helping a loved one with an addiction is not an easy feat. Here are eight rules you must never break when dealing with your loved one’s addiction:

1. Remember that your loved one is changing.

Another skill set often comes with addiction: manipulation and lying. The struggling person’s brain chemistry is starting to change, and as they continue to engage in addictive behavior, they often manifest additional changes.

They’ve given up much control in one area of their life, and good judgment might have been given up as a result. It is important to remember that your loved one may have different moral standards.

2. Change how you interact with them.

Because of your loved one’s changes, you need to remember your perception of them must also change. They are not functioning as they once did; it can help to view your loved one as having a mental illness. This means that your interactions with them will change, and this is not a source of guilt or shame for you.

The new boundaries, new language, and any other actions you change are for the person’s long-term benefit.

3. Watch your expectations.

You must watch your expectations because you are vulnerable to being emotionally wounded by what your loved one chooses to say and how they choose to act. Furthermore, you must be careful to watch your expectations for how fast progress towards an addiction-free life occurs.

Change does not happen overnight, and you are setting yourself up for disappointment if you expect such speed. This can lead your actions reflecting your disappointment, which can actually make the situation worse.

4. Keep the conversation going.

When your loved one is struggling, they might not always be completely honest. Although you might not always be able to take their word at face value, you should try to keep the conversation going.

Ask more questions. Make specific inquiries. Use open-ended questions to give them an opportunity to explain themselves fully. Ensure that you are maintaining a dialogue and not always delivering a lecture.

5. Don’t just listen to words but look for actions.

When you are conversing, try to give your loved one every opportunity to tell the full story.

Once you have heard what they have to say (maybe reasons they say they’ll reform or reasons they put forth about how they aren’t actually addicted), watch their actions.

Do they engage in addictive behavior? Are their words holding up to what you see in reality? Patterns of behavior and new habits will confirm or contradict their speech.

6. Don’t fear confrontation and or agree when they’re in denial.

You may have such a strong desire to not hurt your loved one, but avoiding confrontation and disagreement is not always beneficial long-term.

When behavior reaches a point that you can no longer keep quiet, don’t shy away from lovingly confronting with adequate support. When they are in denial, know that you do not need to always passingly agree with them. You can kindly state your disagreement.

7. Recognize your role.

Ultimately, your role is not to change your loved one. In fact, you cannot actually change them—only they have the power to make the changes. They have to, by their own choice, decide to engage in actions towards life change. No matter how many resources and support you offer them, it is ultimately their choice.

8. Take care of yourself.

Dealing with addiction can be highly stressful and taxing to you mentally, emotionally, and physically. Keep a careful watch on your well-being because you won’t be able to provide aid to another if you are burning out, yourself.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.