When dealing with a loved one who is suffering from addiction, the line between supporting them through a hard time and enabling them to continue can easily be blurred, and ultimately we don’t want to be loving an addict to death. We’ve spoken about this difference on the blog before, but we know that showing tough love to your addict and setting boundaries can be easier said than done.
While the enabling behaviors come from a good place, they ultimately are harmful to your loved one. By supporting them financially, lying for them, allowing them to live with you, etc. you are unintentionally preventing them from getting the help they need.
You’re showing them it’s okay to continue to act like this. The addict won’t seek out treatment if they see their loved ones are still supporting their lifestyle. They’ll continue to follow the same path, which could lead to far more severe problems down the road.
What’s the Worst That Can Happen?
Without facing serious consequences for their actions, your loved one has no reason to change, and you will essentially loving an addict to death. Your words may say one thing, but if your actions are showing the opposite, they’ll believe you’re actually okay with the situation. As a result, they won’t look for treatment and continue to allow their addiction to run their life.
And what happens if an addict doesn’t receive treatment?
They’ll continue to prioritize their drug over everything else. At this point, almost any worst-case scenarios could come true.
They’ll spend all their money trying to get their fix, which could lead to them living in the streets. They may develop cross-addictions. They could overdose and possibly even die.
What to Do Instead
We know that getting stern with an addict isn’t easy. You can see your loved one is struggling, so it’s natural to want to be gentle and forgiving. Unfortunately, that rarely works.
Instead, the best thing to do is to be firm: set boundaries with your loved one, stop enabling them, stage an intervention, and help to get them into treatment. It might feel counterintuitive, but it’s what your loved one requires to heal.
Once you’re able to show your loved one consequences for their actions and guide them into treatment, you’ll feel the weight being lifted off your shoulders. The possibility of your worst fears coming true is suddenly much smaller. Your loved one will finally be on a positive path, one guiding them toward a happy future and lifelong recovery.