Caring for someone who has an addiction is difficult, especially if that person is a spouse, parent, sibling, child, or close friend. Addiction distorts the thought patterns of the addict, and those distortions negatively affect their relationships with those close to them.
Addiction, by nature, forces the addict to focus only on getting and using more of the abused substance. They can not worry about relationships, work, or school and will sacrifice anything for one more hit. There is no such thing as a “normal relationship” for an addict.
The first thing many people want to do for an addicted loved one is to help them. If they don’t, they feel like they are abandoning or betraying them. Unfortunately, their “help” often enables the addict to continue their behavior, sometimes making it easier for them to feed their addiction.
The Importance Of Setting Boundaries
Setting boundaries is important for the addict and those who care for them. Firm boundaries are not a punishment; instead, they allow the addict some autonomy and give some peace of mind and security to their caretakers. They show the addict that their actions or behaviors are unacceptable.
There are several healthy boundaries you can set to make the addict feel uncomfortable enough to realize that a change — hopefully treatment or rehab — is necessary. Otherwise, they have no reason to stop their addictive, harmful behavior.
Boundaries To Set For An Addicted Loved One
Every situation is different, so the choice of appropriate boundaries depends on your relationship with the addict and the nature of their addiction. Here are a few commonly recommended rules:
The home is fully drug or alcohol free. You must feel safe and comfortable in your own home. Let your loved one understand the consequences of violating the boundaries — maybe staying elsewhere if they’re high, or contacting the police if you find drugs in the house.
Set a curfew so they get home at a reasonable time and you all can rest.
Only sober visitors are allowed. This can keep your loved one from associating as often with others sharing the same addiction, removing some temptations. This can also help keep you and your household safer.
Do not give your loved one money, or pay for any of their expenses. Any cash you give them to cover groceries or rent frees up their own money to use for their addiction. Ask for rent or a set monthly contribution to cover household expenses.
Clarify that you will not lie for your loved one, ever. Lying or covering up to “keep it a secret” only hurts in the long run. Do not make any excuses for their behavior. Being truthful may be embarrassing or painful, but it can serve as additional motivation for your loved one to seek help. Acknowledging the truth is a necessary part of the recovery process.
Do not bail your loved one out of jail or help with legal troubles. Sheltering them from the consequences of their actions removes any motivation to change. Many times these painful situations are turning points in the lives of addicts and being at the bottom may make them realize how bad things have become because of their addiction.
Do not allow your loved one to see your children while they are using. Addicts are not fully in control of their actions and may do things that are out of character. You have the responsibility to protect your children from any possibility of harm.
Demand respectful behavior from the addict towards all members of the household. Respect also includes being truthful.
Write down the rules to make them “official.” Keep the paper where both you and your loved one will see it regularly as a reminder.
Share your concerns — and the rules — with others in your family. Encourage them to enforce the same boundaries. This will make it harder for the addicted loved one to look to others for “help,” and provide a united and supportive front.
Take care of yourself. You cannot care for your loved one if you do not have the strength to do so. Maintain your own physical and mental health, because “you cannot serve from an empty bowl.”
Accept that any pain you cause your loved one by not enabling their behavior will pass, and is beneficial in the long run. Remember, you are not to blame for their addiction, nor are you responsible for their recovery.
No matter how severe, these boundaries must be enforced without exception. This can be just as hard, if not harder, than devising the boundaries in the first place. If the addicted person does not agree to (or breaks) the rules, be prepared to let them know they are no longer welcome in your life until they are ready to commit to making changes. Harsh consequences may make them realize what is really at stake.
They will become angry or upset and try to make you feel guilty enough to reconsider. Do not cave in, as their addiction is making them say whatever is needed to get what they want — no matter how hurtful or untrue. Without boundaries, their addiction will get worse. And without consequences, they won’t be motivated to get clean.
Be patient, and have faith. Recovery is always possible, no matter the past.
If you need help for yourself, you can get support through groups that help those affected by another’s addiction like AdFam, AlAnon, or GamCare.
Why Choose Bridges Of Hope?
Bridges of Hope is a Joint Commission-accredited dual-diagnosis adult substance abuse treatment program. Our program is designed to achieve long-term recovery. We are licensed by the State of Indiana Department of Mental Health & Addiction.
Our treatment philosophy is based on a comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing all issues related to substance use and mental health disorders. We leave nothing to guesswork as we utilize therapeutically proven, evidence-based clinical practices. We place superior patient care as our highest priority and offer them all-inclusive treatment services.
Contact us today to learn more about our addiction treatment programs.