Five lessons about addiction I’ve learned as a loved one

Published Nov. 28, 2018

Here are the five takeaways we hear most often from the loved ones we coach.

1. I can have a better day-to-day life even if he/she doesn’t get well

Like those suffering from addiction, loved ones often become disconnected from healthy activities and relationships. It’s important to maintain a healthy routine and practice self-care. This will model healthy change for the person with addiction, too.

2. There are a variety of ways for people to get well from addiction

Often, there’s a belief that people need to go away to inpatient treatment for 30 days in order to overcome addiction. In reality, many people don’t need inpatient treatment. Less intensive forms of support, like counseling, self-help groups or peer coaching may be enough.

3. Helping myself helps the other person

It’s important to be healthy in order to help someone else. Becoming happier, stronger, resilient, more knowledgable – this personal growth also positively impacts the person struggling with addiction.

People who prioritize their own wellbeing will be at an advantage when it comes to handling the challenges of a loved one’s addiction.

4. Relapse doesn’t mean he/she is starting completely over

In almost all cases, a relapse doesn’t mean the person starts back at square one. There may be a recurrence of symptoms, like substance use, but that doesn’t mean he or she hasn’t made considerable progress in recovery. Addiction is a chronic illness very similar to type II diabetes or hypertension, meaning it requires lifelong management. 

Though discouraging, a recurrence can serve as a good reminder to refocus and recommit to wellness. It’s important to keep these setbacks in perspective and stay positive about a person’s progress.

5. I can stop worrying about enabling

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to help someone in your life who’s struggling with this disease. There are behaviors that are healthy and there are behaviors that are unhealthy – not all enabling is bad.

The label of “enabler” is very detrimental and can paralyze loved ones who don’t know how to help. Read more about harmful labels here.

If someone you care about is struggling with addiction, you’re not alone.

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