4 Things You Should Know When Helping a Loved One Through an Addiction

Loving someone with an addiction isn’t easy. You want to help them heal, but the road to recovery is long and full of obstacles. You don’t love them any less, but caring for them can cause you great pain. 

If someone in your life, whether it’s your spouse, a friend, a son or daughter, is struggling with addiction, here are four things you should know when helping them.

1. You Can’t Do Everything 

You can play an important role in someone’s recovery, but you can’t do everything.

At the end of the day, you can’t make someone quit an addiction.  

Accepting this lack of control is difficult. When you love someone, all you want is to be able to make their suffering go away. But recovery is hard work, and ultimately it’s up to your addicted loved one to put in that work, not you.  

Even well-equipped addiction treatment programs don’t claim to be guaranteed cures. For example, SOBA College Recovery has a team of great staff in New Jersey that includes addiction specialists, psychologists, nutritionists, personal trainers, and more. But even with all of this support, it’s still up to the addict to make the effort to heal.  

2. Education is Powerful  

Addiction is a disease and has been studied and researched just like any other illness. That means that there are many educational resources available that can help you better understand your loved one’s problem.  

Learn about the specific substance being abused so that you can know what kind of behavior you can expect. This type of research can be scary, but arming yourself with information is one of the best things you can do to help your loved one and yourself.  

Without understanding how addiction affects the brain, you’re more likely to act on emotion alone. And it’s ok to feel frustrated when an addict relapses or pity them when they ask for money, but knowing the reason behind their actions will help you react to situations more calmly and rationally.  

3. Relapse Does Not Mean Failure 

A wrong turn doesn’t end the journey. Success is difficult to measure in the world of addiction, but relapse does not mean failure. Instead of feeling defeated, help your loved one resume their treatment, modify it, or try something new entirely.  

It’s estimated that between 40% and 60% of people who are treated for substance abuse disorders will relapse, so you have to be prepared for that possibility. There are ways you can help prevent relapse – just reaching out to a person to talk or go for a run every now and then can have a huge impact.  

It can be easy to feel like you’re responsible for a loved one’s relapse – you may think that if you had just done something differently, maybe they wouldn’t have started using again. But the truth is, relapse is a normal part of the recovery process and not something you should ever blame yourself for.

 4. It’s Ok to Take Care of Yourself  

If you only remember one thing from this list, remember to take care of yourself. Your mental health is important too.  

Addiction is a heartbreaking disease that can leave you feeling frustrated, stressed, and alone. You’re constantly on edge, worried not only for their safety but for your own as well. But you shouldn’t have to lose yourself in someone else’s addiction – you can love them while still loving yourself.  

Seek professional counseling, join support groups, and set aside time for yourself. Set boundaries, and remember the three C’s of addiction – cause, control, and cure. You did not cause their addiction, you cannot control it, and you cannot cure it. You are not selfish. You are strong, you are brave.  

By taking care of your own mental health, you’ll be better equipped to care for those you love. Addiction is a monstrous disease, but you and your loved one can get through it together.



I'm a mother of 2 who likes to get involved in too much! Besides writing here I started a non-profit, I'm on the PTO board, very active in my community and volunteer in the school. I enjoy music, reading, cooking, traveling and spending time with my family. We just adopted our 3rd cat and love them all!

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