How to Love an Addict: Five Steps Toward Genuine Love

“I can’t stand back and watch them throw their life away, but I can’t make them change. I want to love them, but I don’t even know how right now. Is there anything I can do?”

Loving the unloveable

It’s not that your loved one is a completely unlovable person. But let’s face it, they are doing things that make it really hard to love them right now—they’re acting irresponsibly, stealing from you, abusing you verbally and maybe even physically. The list of grievances could go on and on.

So, how do you love them?

It’s vitally important to set boundaries to save yourself from being dragged down with your loved one. But if you set too many boundaries, you risk loosing all connection with them.

You still have to show them you care, but how do you do that without enabling their addiction? It all feels like such a fine line.

Steps toward genuine love

It is a tough situation, but these tips will help you find a way to show them love without ignoring the issue of their addiction.

1. Acknowledge that something is wrong.

Don’t ignore your loved one’s drug or alcohol use. Pretending things are okay may make things feel easier for that moment, but it isn’t working toward a long-term solution. When you do talk about the problem with your loved one, remember that the issue isn’t a moral failing in need of rebuke, but rather a sickness in need of care. You can talk to an addict without offending them.

2. Point them to get help.

As if alcohol and drug abuse weren’t deep enough, your loved one’s main problem is even deeper. To get to the root of the issue, your loved one may need help from a treatment professional.

You can help them by finding the right treatment option to address the underlying issues of their addiction. Only when they address the underlying causes of addiction can they truly begin to heal. Encouraging your loved one to seek help is one of the best things you can do.

3. Have realistic expectations.

While struggling with addiction, your loved one isn’t going to be the kind, fun, friendly individual you remember them to be. If drugs or alcohol have taken over their life, they can’t be that person again until they are able to heal.

Instead of focusing on all the ways they aren’t measuring up to expectations, focus on the real issue—their need to get help for their addiction.

4. Respect them… and their friends.

It’s hard to respect someone that’s throwing their life away, but they’re still a person and people need to be treated with dignity.

Naturally you don’t appreciate the people that your loved one is getting drunk or high with, but treating them poorly will only give your loved one more reason to resist your helpful advice. You don’t need to like them, but try to be kind and hospitable to them.

5. Stay in Contact.

Even though your loved one may be burning bridges with many of the people in their lives, you can keep rebuilding your end of the bridge. The best way to do this is through personal interaction.

Talking with someone in person is more powerful than email, texts or calls. Invite them out to lunch once in a while and tell them that you still care about them and their well-being.

If they accept your invitation, ask them about their goals and interests. Often people who struggle with addiction feel very alone. They want someone to listen to them. Reaching out to your loved one could make them realize that you really care and their life could be so much better outside of their addiction.

What will you do?

It’d be nice to have an exhaustive list of DOs and DON’Ts that would always result in a recovered addict, but genuine love isn’t a magical formula. Loving them is hard, but it is possible—and it may be just what they need.

What if they still don’t accept help?

If you’re loved one has refused your efforts to show them love, you may want to take larger steps to address their addiction. It may take an intervention to help your loved one see the damage they are doing to their life and the lives of those around them and give them the impetus to change.

Even when they’re at their lowest, there’s still hope. If you need more help figuring out how to best help your loved one, call Duffy’s today. (707.348.4874)