The list of people who tried to get me sober could go on forever. The few people I’ve dated put a load of effort into helping me get clean and, of course, I wound up dumping them because there wasn’t a chance that I was ever going to give up drugs in exchange for their affection.
But one day, it actually happened. My current partner helped me leave the state I was in and see that there was life beyond drugs. I owe him a huge part of my willingness and motivation to get sober. However, little did I know that he himself had been struggling with an alcohol problem that remained hidden up until the recent months.
Although I had personal experience with sobriety, I found myself baffled as to how I’m going to help the person who helped me do the same. However, with the passing of time, I’ve come to realize that the following things are indispensable when it comes to helping your loved one come to terms with their own substance addiction.
1. Understand what they’re dealing with, but don’t sugarcoat it.
As addicts in recovery, we’re well aware of how damaging sugarcoating a serious problem can be. So no matter how easy it is to sugarcoat addiction or how badly you want to look at the issues surrounding their drinking and say, “Hey, it could be worse,” do your best not to. As long as you’re empathetic to where your partner is coming from, you can be honest and upfront about where their drinking or using can lead them.
2. Take it seriously.
I’ll admit—there are a few moments where my family and I can crack a couple of jokes about my using days, but they are far and few. For someone who is just recognizing their drinking or using problem, making light of the situation can cause that person to ignore the issue. It’s important that you remind your loved one how serious their addiction can be and that getting help is a necessity in order to continue a relationship. You have to be there to give your loved one support just as they were there for you, but you also have to let them know that you can’t do it at the expense of your own sobriety.
3. Don’t try to be their savior.
You may want to be your loved one’s “knight in shining armor,” but it isn’t necessary. In fact, it may not even work. One of the biggest challenges in helping your loved one get sober is that you want them to run to you for support and yourself to believe that they’re doing it because of you. However, what your loved one truly needs is the same thing you likely received—a chance to work with professionals through medical treatment, AA support, or entry to a program that fits their lifestyle. Remember: it isn’t your job to be their savior, but it’s your job to support them and help them understand their options.
4. Help them get help.
You can’t force your loved one to get help, but you can help pave the road. Like other addicts, they’re probably lost on what to do next. Get them lists of helpful phone numbers, treatment options and meeting schedules so they can make their next move.
5. Stay open-minded, but worry about you, too.
It’s important that you continue to learn ways that you can help your loved one, but don’t let it negatively affect your health and sobriety. As you care for him or her, make sure to always assess your safety and feelings as well. You matter too and there’s no use helping someone who doesn’t want to be helped. And while you may have had friends and family who never gave up on you, your partner’s journey to sobriety becomes a moot point if you aren’t sober yourself.
Not too long ago, you were in your loved one’s shoes. Therefore, you know that becoming sober, regardless of where or who you draw your inspiration from, is a personal decision one must make on his or her own. Once you’ve made clear that you’re there for them, the only way to truly help is to simply allow them to make the changes they need to get clean on their own terms.