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Loving Someone With Addiction

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Addiction can affect more than one person; friends and family can often be swept into a very challenging situation when helping a loved one with an addiction. 

However, it’s important to realize that, even in the hardest of moments, you can still help those who need it with a little bit of patience, love, and respect.

How Can I Have Those “Tough” Conversations

When you know someone you care about is struggling with an addiction, one of the first things you may consider doing is talking to them. But, there are a few things to keep in mind when you do decide to have this conversation.

Acknowledge The Addiction

A lot of people who are struggling with addiction tend to try their best to hide their symptoms from loved ones. Over time, hiding the addiction can become extremely hard to do.

When you first talk to someone about their addiction, acknowledge it first hand. It’s important not to approach this as an accusation, but instead you’re recognizing the signs and that you’re genuinely concerned for their health and wellbeing. This changes the conversation from telling someone they’re doing something wrong to a discussion about getting the right help.

Be Angry At The Addiction, Not The Person

It’s crucial to make the distinction between the person and the addiction. You have to realize that most people with this disease are looking to quit, but it can be complicated. Separating the person from the disease can help them know you still love them and that you are willing to support them.

Support Their Recovery

It’s also important to separate support for recovery and support for the addiction or to enable. While you may be going into the conversation with the best intentions, your words can be misconstrued as supporting the addiction.

Make the distinction, and let them know you’re willing to stand by them on the road to recovery.

What Not To Do

It can be difficult to know how to approach a loved one with any conversation related to their addiction. Because of how delicate the conversation is, there are some things you should avoid doing:

  • Never dismiss the addiction as an unfixable problem, i.e. “once an addict, always an addict.” This can cause the person to believe that there is no way out of their addiction and make their future seem hopeless.
  • Never blame something or someone as the root cause of addiction. Addiction is a complicated disease that can stem from a large variety of factors. Boiling down the solution to a single answer may seem like a good idea; but, it can shift blame to something else and could be counterproductive to recovery.
  • Never blame the person alone. This can also alienate them and make them believe there is no one else out there who can help.
  • Never tell them how to approach recovery. Recovery is different for everyone, and it is a delicate process that requires attention, care, and love.
support group

How to Make Sure They Are On The Right Track

Because the road to recovery isn’t a straight and narrow path, there are ways to help make sure a loved one is on the right track. 

First, their treatment should be able to address more than just their addiction. Addiction affects many aspects of a person’s life, including their career, relationships, health, and psychological well being. Their treatment should be able to look at all of these different worlds so that the person can find healthier ways to manage them properly.

If you’re trying to help someone navigate through recovery, make sure they have a strong sober social network they can lean on for help. This can include family, friends, or even coworkers. If they don’t have access to these resources, maybe help them find a class, church, or volunteer group to help them.

Avoid places that may be a trigger for someone with an addiction. This can include bars and clubs, but it also may include people that were enabling or taking part in their addiction. 

Finally, make meetings a priority. Meeting with a support group can really help people struggling with addiction realize that they are not alone, and there is a network available to them for help.

Where Can I Refer My Loved One?

The Calgary Dream Centre can help those who matter the most to you find their path to recovery. From our treatment programs, housing options, and family support, we can find the right way to help your loved ones find their feet in a difficult time.

Please, apply online or call in to schedule an appointment with our Intake Coordinator.

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  • Chris Sciberras

    Written by Chris Sciberras

    Director of Program and Mental Health Clinician Chris is a Registered Provisional Psychologist with a Masters of Counselling from the University of Calgary and a Bachelors of Counselling from the Australian College of Applied Psychology. For the past decade, he has worked extensively with youth, adults, and families in a variety of capacities, with a focus on mental well-being and addiction recovery. Chris has served as the Mental Health Clinician and Program Director at the Calgary Dream Centre since 2017. Prior to joining the Dream Centre, Chris worked in the school system as a Mental Health Counsellor. Chris is passionate about supporting clients at the Dream Centre and helping them along their path of recovery. Chris is originally from Australia, has travelled to over 30 countries, and now happily calls Calgary home.

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