If you have a loved one who battles addiction, you know firsthand the painful price of your love. You likely feel infinitely helpless as you watch someone you care for battle this stubborn opponent. Even more difficult is knowing how to continue showing them love while putting up necessary boundaries. Here we’ll offer some guidance on how to navigate those difficult conversations about addiction and how to detach with love in order to take a step back and let your loved one take control of their own journey to healing.
How to Talk to Your Loved One About Their Addiction
Even if you desperately want to connect with your loved one, knowing which words to use — and which to avoid — can feel like stepping through a minefield. Keep these tips in mind, and remember that your communication doesn’t have to be perfect — just honest:
- Ask open questions: Be willing to listen to the answers in a nonjudgmental way, remembering that your goal is to understand and support.
- Recognize that addiction is a chronic disease: This step will help you to avoid attitudes of condemnation and frustration with their struggle to quit.
- Refuse to play the blame game: While their addiction may have begun as a series of choices, they don’t ultimately want to be addicted. Blaming them — or yourself — will not help the conversation.
- Avoid sugarcoating the truth: You can be kind while also being honest as you make them aware of how their actions affect others.
- Match your words and your actions: Be a stabilizing force who is predictable, consistent and clear.
Detaching With Love
The idea of detachment can feel cold. Even the term feels lonely and sad, perhaps like you’re giving up on your loved one in a way. That’s not the case.
Detaching with love means creating a healthy space for your relationship as you hand back the reins you never really held in the first place and remove yourself from the perceived responsibility for their choices. It means refusing to adapt or enable them and setting healthy boundaries around yourself that you refuse to cross. It’s an awareness that you cannot control someone else’s actions — you can only control how you react to them.
Detaching with love can be an incredibly positive thing for both you and your loved one. By taking a step back, you can remove the shame that they may feel from disappointing you. A future recovery will stem from their own desire to be healthy rather than being the result of pressure from you. Detaching will give them the power to accomplish milestones for themselves and feel the resulting satisfaction of a goal met. Most of all, detaching communicates the message that you believe they’re strong enough, capable enough and brave enough to recover for themselves.
Key Detachment Takeaways
If you take anything from this page, let it be the following:
- Setting boundaries is crucial. To be an effective support system, you need to be healthy yourself. Figure out what you are and aren’t willing to do for your loved one, and communicate these things clearly.
- Remember that you can only help someone who wants to be helped. Unless they genuinely want to recover, you cannot drag them tooth and nail through the process.
- Detaching will allow your loved one to see the repercussions of their lifestyle and learn from their mistakes.
If someone you love is struggling with an addiction and they feel ready to take the next step in their recovery, we’re here to help. Contact Gateway Foundation for more information about our life-saving addiction treatment.