22 Jul Common Pitfalls to Avoid While Supporting an Addict

Anyone who loves an addict knows supporting them can be a tricky thing at times. There’s a fine line between helping and hindering when it comes to addiction, and it can be difficult to know which side of that line you’re falling on. While the answers to how much or how little help you should lend an addict in differ according to your particular situation, there are some common pitfalls everyone can avoid.

Sympathy vs. Empathy


Trying to understand how your loved one is feeling as he or she battles addiction is natural, and will make it easier for you to help them. Understanding and recognizing the feelings of others is called empathy, and it’s a great tool when working with an addict. However, when empathy turns to sympathy, problems can arise very quickly.

Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone else’s situation and feelings. Sympathy in addiction can quickly take the responsibility for recovery away from the addict and can actually feed the addiction. You can empathize with your loved one by showing unconditional love and support, but refusing to make excuses for his or her behavior.

Enabling and Codependency

If you are close to an addict, you can quickly find yourself in some sticky situations. As you try to help your loved one, beware of codependency. Codependency is common in addiction. In a codependent relationship, the addict comes to rely heavily on one person to meet all of his or her needs and put in a great deal of effort to maintain the relationship. In the meantime, the addict may put all his or her energy into feeding the addiction. You may be tempted to put your own needs aside as you focus on the addict, fueling your sense of self by keeping the addict afloat. Don’t let that happen.

Codependent relationships only fuel addiction. Even if a relationship isn't fully codependent, it’s still easy to enable addictive behavior by offering too much help, making excuses for an addict, or providing resources (like money) that are used to fuel the addiction. You can avoid codependency and enabling by setting clear boundaries with an addict, and then not crossing them, no matter what. A simple example would be to refuse to lend him or her cash for any reason.


Focusing on the Solution

It’s important when you’re supporting an an addict not to let the problem become a consuming issue. This leads to enabling and codependency. It’s much more productive to focus on the solution instead. There’s nothing you can do to help an addict who is still using. All you can do is love him or her and wait for him or her to be ready for a change. In the meantime, make solutions available, and let your loved one know that you’re ready to help when he or she is ready to accept it.

Discuss rehab options with your loved one and let him or her know you’re willing to do anything you can to help him or her through that process. Then, leave the situation alone. Offering help with finances or in other ways while your loved one is still using will only fuel the addiction. Be sure to take good care of yourself during this time so you will be strong enough to help when your loved one is ready. Keep your physical health, your mental state, and your finances in good shape so you can be there when your loved one is ready to make a change.

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