Should you rethink how you love your addict?

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FEATURE — The most asked question from a person who is trying to get their loved one into treatment is, “How can I help, what do I need to do to change them.” The answer is, “You can’t.”

The addict is not reachable by any human power. Whether you are religious of any denomination, or you are spiritual of any western or eastern philosophy, it takes a power greater than family to reach the addict in any meaningful way. The family member or friend only needs to take an inventory of what is and isn’t working. If an honest assessment of the help that has been given by friends and family is taken, then it is clear, it’s not working. So, what can be done?

Having worked in the field of addictions for over 20 years, I have seen many families transform their hopeless feelings of addiction into great personal strengths. One family group member the other night commented:

I have gained so much because my son is an addict. His issues have taught me to take better care of myself. For years I tried to fix him. I lost myself in his problems. My husband and other children suffered because I was so focused on the problem. I couldn’t see the solution. As I started to attend this family group and other family 12-step support groups, I began to see that I couldn’t change him, that I needed to change me.

This is a very common statement among the members of family group. Working to try and fix another human being who suffers from addiction is the essence of insanity.

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Let me clarify something before we get to a solution. In another case, a father said the other day, “I am going to call her (his daughter) a person who struggles with making good choices, not and addict.”

For anyone who is a member of a religion, the word “sinner” may be just as confused. Would someone take offense for being called a sinner who is attending church? The word sinner identifies and binds a religious group together in a common cause. Having suffered from past mistakes and not being perfect is a binding event. Being around people that have common problems and are seeking the solution is a very powerful thing.

Saying, “I am an alcoholic” validates that there is a problem. Identifying as someone who suffers a common malady in a group that is working on a solution to the problem is cathartic. One doesn’t feel shame in a group of people who truly are trying to better themselves.

What can be done? I have seen the look in a person’s eyes when they realize that addiction is bigger than the love that they have for their addict. In fact, love is a resource for the addiction.

Yes, love is the main resource of addiction. Finding that out was another shock. I was a young counselor. Family group was something new in the counseling center that I was working at. We had a weekly family of our clients-only group. One of the mothers was sharing all her trials and tribulations she had been having with her son for the last few years. He had been in and out of hospitals, jails and rehabs. She had tired everything to help him, yet he continued to relapse repeatedly. I knew she loved him deeply.

At the end of her share, she said, “I have come to the place that if he dies, it is a better place than where he is at right now. I think he would be better off.”

I was incredulous. Worry crept in because I didn’t want the other family members to think there is no hope. Yet most of the parents were nodding and looking down as she made the statements.

Lack of love was not the problem. She loved her son. That love had been turned into something different by the addiction.

What can we do about addiction? Plenty. Over the years it is very plain that what we believe about addiction must be changed. Love and the perception of love given must be changed. Instead of educating on what not to do, we need to come to an understanding of what addiction is.

Written by AARON WARD, Lion’s Gate Recovery

•  S P O N S O R E D   C O N T E N T  •


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  • jaltair December 16, 2017 at 12:52 am

    An addict will always be an addict, if you want to help, you can’t. Only be there for the person you love who is the addict, but don’t feed any co-dependant behavior. Some addictions have better success rates than others. Opiates and meth will destroy people in different ways, and they will always choose the drug over anyone or anything else. To love someone who is an addict, you have to cut the cord of codependant behavior yet be there if they need you. It’s tough and you just might think they would be better off dead. There is no closure otherwise. Once a person gets to that realization, they will be healthier and more apt to help the addict emotionally.

  • SunshineDawn December 16, 2017 at 9:46 am

    Blaming them or trying to protect them from consequences will not help a person struggling with addiction; this is because neither the person, nor their loved ones, has control. Those who suffer from addiction do not choose the drug over family or friends. Once in the grip of addiction the addicts choices are taken from them. I personally know this as I am an addict named Carolyn! I was a personal slave to the disease for 20 years, I didn’t choose over drug of choice over my children, I didn’t choose over my family, and I sure didn’t choose the drug over my life! However now in Recovery I do have a choice, because I am free from active addiction at leas just for today!

  • ladybugavenger December 16, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    I wish you the best on your recovery!

    You will get to the point in your recovery where you take full responsibility of your choices and learn you did choose drugs over everything. That’s the harsh reality. Its a reality that is very hard to swallow. But a reality you need to face to not fall back.

    Addiction is no joke.
    I wish you the best in your recovery.

  • ladybugavenger December 16, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    I do understand what you are saying. Its a master/slave relationship. The drug is the master and you are the slave. It leaves you feeling their is no choice. You are it’s slave. I get it. I really do.

    Just stay with a 12 step program. Good luck to you!

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