Is it really possible to help someone who is addicted to alcohol, drugs, food, sex, gambling, or whatever?
Is there really anything you can say or do that will make that person go to rehab and turn his life around?
The answer to these questions is yes, it is possible to help someone who is addicted, and there are things that you can say and do that might lead him to rehab, although this is ultimately a decision that he must make. But, as much as we would like to believe that rehab is the ultimate cure for addiction, the fact remains that this is an incurable lifelong disease. In fact, rehab is just the first step to learning how to control addiction so that the addict can lead a happy, productive and sober life.
The first thing you need to do to help someone who is addicted is to learn about the disease of addiction. Addiction is not a moral or character failing, it is a chronic disease like asthma or diabetes or muscular dystrophy. A good, basic understanding of addiction will help you to help your addicted loved one.
Have you ever covered up or lied for the addict? Maybe called in to his workplace, saying he was sick, when he was really just sleeping if off? Have you apologized for him because he couldn’t attend a family gathering using the excuse that he was “working?” This is known as enabling, and almost all of us who care about an addict do it at some time. We think we are being helpful, when this is actually one of the worst things that we can do. Co-dependency is another behavior on our part that will impair the addict’s recovery. When you are co-dependent, you feel responsible for everything the addict does and try to control his behavior. When someone does this to a high degree, he himself becomes sick and, in a sense, addicted.
So, what can you do to avoid these pitfalls and really help your addicted one? You can attend Al-Anon meetings. Not only will this help you to learn more about the disease of addiction, it will give you a support group. Al-Anon will teach you philosophies of detachment and setting boundaries so that you can avoid enabling and co-dependency. This may eventually help your loved one, because he will realize that no one is responsible for his addiction but himself, and you will not bail him out. You can find Al-Anon in the phone book or go to www.alanon.org.
How can you help someone who is addicted? The bottom line is: get help for yourself, then you can help the addict. But you have to be strong in your own life first, and you have to be able to help them from a place of real detachment. If you are basing your happiness on their sobriety, then that is not healthy, and you need to take a step back and reorganize. Seek help from al-anon in order to become stronger in your own life.