A Guide on When to Walk Away From an Addict
Knowing when to walk away from an addict is never easy. For some, walking away from someone you love can seem like an impossible task. For some, even just thinking about walking away can be out of the question.
At some point, you may decide you're probably at a breaking point. Almost every person who loves an addict gets there. Emotions are bound to run high. At times you may feel paralyzed. All those feelings are normal. It is a tough decision you should not make alone. It is hard to know when to put a voice to your emotions and make the difficult decision to walk away. Even if you walk away today, how would you live with yourself?
What actions would you take to live the rest of your life without guilt or shame? Knowing what to do is not always clear. That's where this guide can help. If you think you're ready to stage an intervention this guide will help you answer some of your questions and give you a better understanding of what needs to happen. There is hope and an intervention may just be what's needed.
Reasons Why You May Not Want to Walk Away
When you get to a point that you feel like walking away, you must stop and think about this decision. Think about the pros and cons. Figure out why you believe it's time to walk away and why you may not want to walk from the person in your life. Below is a list of reasons you may want to tell yourself when considering walking away.
1. You're Afraid They Won't Make it on Their Own
When you think about walking away, you may feel like you are giving up on your loved one. To see the potential in that person is natural. You know they are strong, capable, and brave. But in the midst of drug addiction, your loved one may no longer believe that about themselves.
The all too familiar thought that without loved ones they cannot make it will come to the forefront of your mind. The natural response to this is to put the thought out of your mind and continue to help the person in your life. Really what you are doing is enabling them. They know that they always have your support and will continue in their habit. Eventually, they begin to depend on others and no longer on themselves.
2. You Feel its Your Job to Fix Them
Isn't it human nature to want to fix things? Don't we all just want to make everyone happy? This seems to be the mantra of our society. When we see something is wrong, we want to fix it. It is the same concept when a loved one becomes an addict.
Watching your loved one get deeper into the dark hole of substance abuse is just plain hard. You know it is the path to nowhere, so you want to step in and fix the problem. You believe you can get to the heart of the matter and correct everything that may be wrong. Truth is, you can't. It is not your job to fix them. It is your job to love them even if tough love is what is handed out.
A person who is abusing drugs doesn't need just you. They need an entire support team. It will take a village of love, support, and care to heal the person in your life.
3. They Keep Convincing You That They Have it All Under Control
Drug addiction has a mind of its own. It creates that mindset by altering the brain function of the host person. Someone uses drugs and/or alcohol to help their bodies think they can relax and take care of anything. With this process, an addict will believe they have everything under control. They can stop taking that drink or drug anytime they choose.
You cannot help but want to believe that they actually have everything under control. You don't want to see them in a place where their lives are no longer in their own hands. People with addiction will often convince their families they are in control in order to get them to back off. They want to ease the pain of their loved ones. They believe they can stop on their own, so their argument is quite convincing. Bottom line is they can't stop on their own. The drugs and alcohol have control.
4. You're Hoping For Things to Get Better
Hope is the one thing that all people have. When you have a loved one abusing drugs and/or alcohol, naturally you hope they will see the problem and take care of it. While having hope is good, it can turn into a situation of hope enabling.
Hope enabling happens when your loved one says "I just need one more high and then I'll quit." You believe this mantra no matter how many times you have heard it. They are always asking for just a little more time and you are giving it. Sometimes the situation turns to the person showing a little progress and you begin to hope it will continue. At this point, you will begin to think that without your support your loved one will backslide falling further into drug abuse.
To have hope is to believe in your loved one. They need to know you believe in them, but there are boundaries. The fact is that drug and alcohol addiction cannot get better itself.
What's the Truth About Addiction?
When you begin thinking about drawing the line, there are some truths to consider. These truths will help you make the best decisions for your loved one and the rest of your family. Take a look at these three addiction truths when deciding how to deal with your situation.
1. Their addiction is not your fault.
Society has unfortunately applied a stigma to not just those addicted but their families, as well. They want to put the blame on someone because they believe if they can identify the fault, they can fix the problem. This thought weaves its way into the hearts and minds of families. Families believe they did something to cause this. They wonder what could they have done differently.
To understand that a loved one becoming addicted to drugs and/or alcohol is not your fault is crucial. The choice to have a drink or get high does not lie with you, it lies with the addict. We make mistakes each day in how we love and treat our families, but it is not your fault if one of them chooses drugs to deal with the problems.
2. You cannot fix them, but you can provide support.
This truth falls in line with the understanding that addiction is not your fault. You cannot fix the problem because the problem does not lie with you. It was not your choice for your loved one to begin taking drugs. It was not your choice that they have not received help for their substance abuse issue.
What you can do is provide support for your loved one. You can be there when they need you for emotional support. When they are receiving intervention and care, you can show them your love for them. Be there for therapy appointments. Visit when you can. Show them that no matter how low they get, you love them. Be wary to not take this support to far and begin enabling them.
For loved ones that are abusing drugs, there is a deeper issue at hand. Support should come in the form of help with the deeper issue, not by enabling them to continue taking drugs.
3. Addiction is a progressive disease.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine "addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry." Substance abuse usually starts as a way to not feel emotions. The release of dopamine in the brain gives addicts the reward as they feel a euphoric experience.
After the first few hits, users begin to use that euphoric feeling as the motivation to continue using. The memories of that "good" feeling are imprinted on the brain. As the addiction continues, the need for more becomes larger. Their bodies become more immune and it takes more to achieve the wanted effect. As a family member, you see this progression happen and may witness your loved one change in ways you never could have imagined.
While the progression of addiction happens, the progression of unwanted behaviors will begin. Everything about addiction is progressive.
What is the Answer? Should You Walk Away?
Choosing to take action in your situation comes out of love, but that doesn't make it any easier. In order to take the first steps to stop enabling and draw a line in the sand, an intervention is necessary.
Hold an Intervention
An intervention is a precisely planned process that involves the family and friends of a person struggling with addiction. There is nothing spontaneous about it. It comes in many forms other than the classic everyone gathered in a room surrounding their loved one. This meeting should be viewed as a safe place where there are no accusatory or negative remarks. The ultimate goal is to disrupt the bad habits that are taking the life of your friend, husband, wife, son, or daughter.
Beyond the goal of disrupting bad habits, interventions are a way to express boundaries. It is a time to explain the consequences if they continue in their substance abuse. Usually, this comes in the form of an impact statement. Be clear about how their addiction is affecting those around them.
Interventions are shown to have a 90% success rate in getting an addict help according to AIS. Of course, what happens next is up to your loved one. Because of the progressive nature of addiction, early intervention is essential. Substance abuse can take over a life quickly and bring a family down with it. Helping a loved one to get help early on could save your family as well as save the life of your loved one.
Putting Yourself First
Putting yourself first seems contradictory in the substance abuse situation, but it is key. Situations that involve a spouse could mean there are times when a simple conversation could become volatile. Domestic issues can become violent and dangerous. If there are children in the home, then you have to protect them as well as yourself. If this means you have to kick out your spouse, then do it. Sometimes a person has to hit rock bottom and see there is no future in their current state of living.
Allow yourself time to achieve healing. Addiction doesn't affect only the user. It affects everyone in its path. Seeing a therapist and spending time with your personal support group is important. If you are not receiving the care to heal you, then how can you help your loved one. Becoming beat down or even physically ill does no one any good. Put yourself first by setting boundaries and taking care of yourself.
Stand by Your Decisions
With the help of your support group, you can set healthy boundaries and support your loved one who deals with addiction. Once you have made the decision to set boundaries, do not change them. Enforce them with love at all times.
Going back on your decisions can give the wrong impression. It could be seen as a way to justify a refusal of treatment or an early end to treatment. In order to ensure the strength of your will power, take some time to write down what your decisions are and why you are choosing to stick to them. Legally remove toxic people in your life that may sway your decision making or make you feel that you need to bend the rules. Always remember why you made the decision to stop enabling, set boundaries, and intervene.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
You can always read aloud an impact statement or share your boundaries with your loved one, but if you don't act on your words they mean nothing. It is really easy to speak words, but not as easy to carry them out. What you do has way more significance than what you say. If you say you are going to remove from your house someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, then do it.
People are always watching you. Sarcasm can be written on your face for all to see. When you state your decision to a loved with substance abuse problems, you have to begin immediately to show them you mean what you say. If they can see your actions not matching your words, then they see it is okay to say I will get help and then not follow through. Stand by what you say through your actions. This could be more effective in their addiction treatment than you think.
Don't Tolerate Violence or Threats
When you make the decision to walk away, you have made the decision to put yourself first. This means to in no way tolerate behavior that puts you or any other family members in harm's way. When addiction progresses, behaviors can become uncontrollable. A person under the influence of drugs or alcohol can do things they normally would not. You have to protect yourself at all costs. Call the police or another family member for help.
Do This Before Walking Away
Making the choice to walk away from a loved one who is abusing drugs is hard. In order to make that decision, there is one thing you must try. That is to sell them on an intervention. In order to do that, you need to sell yourself.
Take time to gain knowledge you can use in an intervention process. Talk with a professional interventionist or local drug rehabilitation counselor. These professionals will help you learn what you may need to change in yourself in order to help your loved one that has become an addict.
They can also help you understand the addiction and how it progresses. With this understanding, you can build a support group from family and friends that will lend a shoulder to lean on and ultimately help you sell your loved one on an intervention.