Having a loved one who is suffering from addiction is a heart-breaking thing to deal with. Having to watch a partner, family member or friend, slowly self-destruct and spiral out of control is agonising and knowing just how bad things can become for them, makes it all the more difficult to cope. Your love and empathy make it seem impossible to remove yourself from the situation, as it drives you to feel you have to help and creates guilt when you can’t. Removing yourself from this vicious cycle can be one of the most difficult things to do in life but it is this very action which is needed and can potentially save a life. With addiction, the reality is, that ultimately the only person who can help an addict to get better is themselves. They have to genuinely want to take that first step in the right direction, forcing someone into rehab or recovery is completely redundant.

Firstly you have to consider yourself and the role you have to play. Having this person in your life affects you and can have a deep emotional and psychological impact. It may be helpful to you to get some counselling or join groups such as Al-Anon or Co-dependency Anonymous. (www.coda.org, www.al-anon.org) Also it’s true to say that for anyone who is trying to help a loved one, one of the most difficult things to put aside is your need or want to help. Groups such as those named above can also help you to gain some perspective and help clarify the reasons why it is best for you to take a step back.

There are some things that you can look out for to help you get through. Remember no matter how much a person may love you, when they are deep in addiction their primary motive is always self-driven. Avoid engaging destructive behavior and try not to support any addiction driven behaviors. Being asked for money is something that can happen over and over again, sometimes the easy option is to give in, if only for a few hours peace but you are becoming part of the problem if you facilitate their needs.

Unfortunately the sad and harsh reality is that sometimes our loved ones can’t find their way back, addiction is incredibly self- destructive and in the end, for some, that destruction is all that they have and there is no coming back from the brink. How do we reconcile ourselves with the fact that our loved one cannot or will not get better? How do we accept that we have lost them? Sadly this question has no universally right answer. We all deal with grief and mourning differently but if we can prepare ourselves for what is to come, it can in some small way help us to cope with the loss. Knowing at the end that you were there the whole way through and that you would have done anything you could to help is sometimes all that you have because you know that in the end the only person who could have helped them, was themselves. The key to getting through and moving on is looking after yourself, be prepared for disappointment and have your heart and your mind in the right place.


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