How to Help an Addict, Even If It’s Your Lover
Drug or alcohol abuse runs deep and affects your relationship. If your lover has a substance abuse problem, you can’t stand to see them suffer. Here’s how to help an addict.
Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
As a Christian, you are no doubt familiar with this verse, from 1 Corinthians 13. If your partner, lover, or spouse is addicted to drug or alcohol, however, you may have difficulty putting these words into practice.
Drugs and alcohol can wield incredible power over the individual who uses, abuses, and is addicted to them. Although it may seem as though you are powerless to help your loved one, there are ways you can be supportive and loving. Read on to learn how to help an addict.
Signs That Your Partner May Be Addicted
When you first began dating, you and your partner probably went out for drinks or maybe shared a bottle of wine while having heart-to-heart conversations. At the time, you never dreamed that she was an alcoholic. But as the months went by, you began to realize that alcohol had taken control. Or maybe you are just starting to realize that your loved one’s relationship with alcohol or drugs isn’t healthy.
Here are some signs that you may be living with an addicted person:
- Secretive behavior or even outright lies about their use
- Changes in appetite, weight loss, or unexplained weight gain
- Frequent symptoms of illness (which may be attributed to hangovers or the ill effects of drug use)
- Calling in sick to work or skipping classes
- Financial difficulties
- Emotional changes, particular becoming distant or seeming distracted
- Irritability and mood swings (which may be signs of withdrawal)
- Continued drinking or drug use despite negative consequences
- Risk-taking behavior (such as driving while intoxicated)
It is easy to explain away some of these changes and behaviors, and your loved one likely has an excuse for why she’s doing what she’s doing. It may also be difficult for you to face facts, and therefore you may make your own excuses for your partner’s behavior.
Taking a step back and trying to view the situation objectively can help you see clearly what’s going on.
A Few Things To Understand About Addiction
Most major medical associations consider addiction to be a disease. In other words, the individual who is addicted can’t simply “quit” — any more than they could quit having diabetes or stop their cancer from spreading.
Of course, your lover — and everyone else who uses drugs or drinks to excess — did initially make a choice to try the drugs or accept the drinks. Moreover, they continue making those choices, every time they use. The fact that free will does play a part in how your addicted loved one got to where they are today can complicate matters.
Addiction has both physical and psychological components. Asking a user to “go cold turkey” is not only likely to be an ineffective approach, it may even be detrimental to their health. If your partner is ready to tackle her addiction, make sure that she has the necessary medical and therapeutic resources — rehab may be the way to go.
Another important component of addiction? The addicted individual has to be ready to make the change herself. You can’t force anyone to go through rehab.
What Not To Say
It’s understandable that your fear, frustration, and anger may occasionally get the better of you. You may be tempted to say things like, “If you really loved me, you’d quit drinking,” or “It’s either me or the drugs; you have to choose.”
Don’t give your partner an ultimatum unless you are truly prepared to follow through with it. And remember that quitting drinking or drugs simply isn’t that easy at this stage of addiction. It isn’t about loving you more than loving the high.
Using guilt, blame, or shame won’t work to get your partner to stop using, either. In fact, these negative emotions are more likely to have the opposite effect, and drive your loved one further into the waiting arms of addiction.
Ask Yourself If You Are Enabling
If you find yourself lying to cover up your partner’s behavior, making excuses for her, or stepping in to take care of her responsibilities when she can’t meet them, you are enabling the addicted behavior.
Are you paying more than your share of the household expenses, because your loved one is squandering money on drugs or alcohol — or has incurred expenses due to legal troubles? It might be time for some “tough love.”
Learn the difference between support and enabling. Your support is absolutely necessary for your partner’s recovery, but enabling is only making the situation worse. The concept of “love the sinner but hate the sin” isn’t a Bible verse (in fact, the quote comes from Mahatma Gandhi), but it does personify the Christian approach to supporting addicts.
How to Help an Addict
So what should you do? There are many ways how to help an addict. First, keep reiterating your love and support. Addicted individuals may have a hard time believing that you love them in spite of their problems, so be prepared to reassure them as they go through treatment — and beyond.
Should you hold an intervention? This is a tricky topic, and ultimately the decision will depend on your situation, the extent of your lover’s addiction, and whether or not you can persuade other friends and family to join you.
If your partner decides to enter a treatment program, that program might very well offer resources, such as support groups, for families and friends. Meeting others who are in similar situations, and getting advice from qualified professionals, can be incredibly helpful. Your participation will also demonstrate to your partner that you are committed to their recovery.
Addiction doesn’t just affect the individual who is drinking or drugging. It’s very stressful for spouses or partners, too. Recognize that the addiction may be taking a toll on your mental health, and don’t hesitate to get help for yourself even while encouraging your loved one to get the help she needs.
There’s no denying that addiction can ruin lives — and it has a ripple effect that goes far beyond the individual who is using drugs or drinking excessively. However, there is hope. When you take the time to find out how to help an addict, you are better prepared to accompany a partner, girlfriend, or boyfriend on their recovery journey.
Would you like to learn more about our faith-based recovery program? There’s no obligation. We’re happy to help. Use our contact form or give us a call for a compassionate, Christian approach to healing.