Above: A painting of the Buddha, found in a hotel bathroom
Helping recovering addicts can be complicated and draining. Never knowing what you can trust places the body in a heightened state of stress. You are caught in between wanting the best yet preparing for the worst. I’ve come to realize three things that are important to keep in mind when helping someone facing an addiction.
I speak from the heart, having learned to work with addictive behavior through many family members for the larger portion of my life (22 years to be exact). I personally have no experience with addiction, I have only witnessed it through others. I will say though, it’s been a long, challenging, road but I would not change one thing about it. I believe that we are exactly where we are meant to be, at all times, going through exactly what we are meant to. I believe the universe only places us under circumstances that we have the capacity to handle.
I’ve faced times in my life in which I did not see a way out or think it would ever pass. Here I am, a survivor. I have a story that isn’t told very often. We hear many many stories from the users point of view, but the family members and friends are often left forgotten. It’s so quickly forgotten the hardship that everyone went through, and the healing that must come with it. I’ve learned some of the most important lessons in life, lessons that many will never learn. Some of the lessons I’ve taken away are those of, compassion, trust, faith, how to stand on my own two-feet, how to sift through lies, how to be vulnerable and be comfortable with it, how to live as if it may be your last day, how to stop enabling and actually help, but the most important lesson I’ve learned, is forgiveness. Without forgiveness, doors simply don’t close. It is for these reasons that I do not regret any difficult moment. I send loving energy in hopes that safety and love will find my loved ones who are stills struggling, but I do not regret their decisions.
The three important things to remember when helping any struggling addictive behavior are:
- It is up to the individual to change.
- You are not responsible for careless actions, no matter how preventable they may seem.
- It is not your job to help a loved one through troubling times.
You cannot force a person to change. You cannot force a person to seek help. They must first realize they have a problem, and follow up this realization with the desire to change. It can take years or decades for a person to realize they have a problem, and even longer to desire to change. Even when a person has the desire to change, even then, there are no guarantees they will seek help. Keep in mind that it is up to the individual to change, which brings us to the next point.
You are not responsible for careless actions, no matter how preventable they may seem.
Even if you believe taking their car keys away will keep them out of harms way you are wrong. This is a temporary fix which will not solve, but rather prolong a careless action. It isn’t to say that you cannot help in ways like this, but that it isn’t your responsibility. It is up to them to change.
Finally, it is not your job to help a loved one through troubling times. Lending support for their decisions is one thing, but turning their sobriety into your job, is another. One of the most difficult things I have found in helping those going into recovery is that you must be supportive no matter what they decide. That means, even if they have chosen to continue using drugs or alcohol, you must be supportive of this too. It does not mean you should enable them. It means that you’ve got to accept them as they are even when they are not ready to change.
Finding support in these ways helps to put your mind more at ease because you reduce expectations. It isn’t your life to expect anything. By keeping these little “mantras” in mind, you prevent enabling negative behavior. With all situations like these, we hope that one day our loved one will admit to the abuse, and seek help. When he/she does decide to change, it is an incredibly empowering feeling to know that you have kept grounded through their experience, and are now able to slowly reenter each others lives. Building a brand new relationship around love, support, and forgiveness is a life lesson in itself. It teaches us to have faith, to show compassion, but most of all to forgive. When you forgive, a door closes, and a new one may be opened. May we all find compassion in spaces that seem far too occupied to do so.