Loving A Drug Addict Or An Alcoholic: How To Help Them And Yourself

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People experiencing drug or alcohol consumption issues experience long-term and short-term mental and physical health problems. Their loved ones, friends, and family are affected by their state. If you have a loved one who suffers from alcohol or drug abuse, then, it’s important that the symptoms of these disorders are known and that you know how to help them.  But make sure that you’re taken care of too.

“Addiction can be especially brutal on marriage. Spouses often feel helpless watching the one they love self-destruct, and they also feel angry about their partner’s deception and betrayals.” — Jason Whiting Ph.D.

Alcohol And Drug Abuse Symptoms


The following is a list of substance or alcohol abuse symptoms experienced by people plagued by the disorders:


  • Being drunk often
  • Memory and thinking problems
  • Fatigue
  • School or work-related problems
  • Going to events filled with alcohol or even drugs
  • Stealing money to get drugs
  • Lying about the substance intake
  • Being defensive when asked about the substance or alcohol abuse
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drugs or alcohol
  • Poor appearance and hygiene


Those who experience these problems act differently when they’re drunk or high and may do or say hurtful words. They may even do some risky actions like driving when intoxicated. These can invoke worry among their family and friends.

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Control Versus Influence


Forcing someone who has an addiction to stop what he is doing may get him to agree, but it won’t necessarily treat the addiction. It’s something people can’t control without the necessary help since it is done on compulsion.


The Center Of The Brain Is Rewired With Repeated Reinforcement 


You shouldn’t blame or protect your addicted loved one from the consequences of his addiction as both of you don’t have control over this. Loved ones can significantly help an addict by intervening (rehab programs or therapy, etc.) and showing support. Simple actions like talking calmly can already influence the addict.

“Codependency is a learned protective behavior, allowing people to cope with a very difficult situation. However, codependency is not healthy, and it results in a never-ending cycle of similar relationships.” — Sherry Gaba LCSW

Ending Codependency


People who are addicted and have a partner may find themselves being codependent, which isn’t healthy in the long run. Here are some signs of that:


Taking responsibility for the addict: Feeling responsible for the actions and decisions of someone and putting their happiness first prevents the addict from experiencing any consequences of their actions.


Prioritizing the other person’s emotions first: If you put their feelings before your own needs, you might end up neglecting yourself.


Holding onto the relationship to avoid abandonment: This is about always craving approval to please someone to keep the relationship even if it’s already toxic.


Trouble talking about their feelings: Someone who is in a codependent relationship will have difficulty talking about their feelings and needs.


Inability to set personal boundaries: Having codependent tendencies makes people say yes even though they don’t agree.


A relationship that isn’t codependent at first could end up being one if one party is struggling with addiction. Both of you need to get help from a therapist to have a healthy relationship again.


How To Help A Loved One Struggling With An Addiction


For people who are in a codependent relationship, the following steps may seem too harsh or unhelpful, but they are needed so that both parties can heal.


  • Addiction happens because of the brain
  • You can’t fight the addiction for the addict
  • Set boundaries.
  • Get them to ask for help
  • Both you and the addict need to undergo therapy
  • Be an example to your loved one and give up drugs and alcohol too
  • Support them but don’t protect them from the consequences
  • Stay optimistic and don’t give up at the first sign of relapse

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In The Event Of A Relapse


A person can overcome their addiction with the help of their loved ones, friends, and family. But relapsing is something that can worry both the loved ones and the patient. With addiction, symptoms will get worse sometimes. This should encourage them to go back to the doctor for treatment.

“Your spouse can come to his or her own conclusions by using all of these clues together. If your spouse trusts how your words and behaviors match, they can move forward with you.” — Erika Krull, MSEd, LMHP


How the rehabilitation program handles relapses is also essential. Some would pair up patients with those who have graduated the program so the patient can learn how the other recovered from the relapse. Loved ones should also show support in case of relapse by not judging the person and helping them get help.


Prevent a relapse by removing substances like drugs or alcohol in the house, introduce them to hobbies that don’t involve the two, and have healthy goals. Both the addict and the loved ones are essential in helping a person recover.

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