DO NOT: treat the addict like a child, a subordinate, or less than human. Consider this person and take action as if they are suffering from a disease like cancer. Remember to hate the disease but not the person. They are both sick and struggling.
DO: take care of YOURSELF and remain TRUE to yourself. Stay abreast of what your needs may be. Self-care will strengthen you, and you’ll need the strength to educate yourself on the disease of addiction. Education is imperative, as it will help you understand what the addict is going through, and shed light on some of your own repressed or angry feelings. You will find that coping with your feelings and resentments becomes easier once they are acknowledged.
DO NOT: check up on the addict to see how much they are using, drinking or gambling. Taking that action can be extremely alienating to the addict, and might end up hurting you. There is no need to inflict extra damage on the relationship, or let their addictive behavior be the cause of another fight. Protect yourself and remember they have their journey in life, and you have yours.
DO: what you can to avoid behaviors that are hurting your ability to get what you want out of life. If you find yourself obsessing over someone else’s, then that is not healthy. You may feel repressed and become disinterested in what you would enjoy under other circumstances. Instead of letting a preoccupation or depressive funk consume you, opt to take a walk, do some stretching, listen to a guided meditation, or start an organization project you’ve been putting off. There are endless options of things to do that don’t require too much commitment but do serve a positive purpose.
DO NOT: nag the addict about their addictions and never argue with them while they are intoxicated or high. Nagging the addict can be another cause for alienation, and might even swing into an argument that can be potentially dangerous. You may want to express your displeasure, but the likelihood of your loved one (a) retaining the information, (b) showing genuine remorse, or (c) not becoming angry, defensive, or at worse violent, is very slim when they are under the influence. When someone is under the influence you cannot expect them to be rational or accountable, and if that’s the case, engaging in the situation is not worth your time and energy.
DO: set boundaries and make sure you are not enabling the addict’s behavior and harmful actions. Often we think we are helping our loved one by rescuing them or lying for them when in fact we are doing just the opposite. This is a form of codependency that perpetuates the vicious addiction cycle and puts a major strain on your relationship. By rescuing them you do not give them the dignity to fail and be held accountable. It is ok to have compassion, but if your loved one uses manipulation tactics and false promises to save them from a bind or to get what they want, then the buck stops here. Draw the line and allow your integrity to take lead. If you don’t participate as an enabler, you will be free from future feeling of guilt and remorse associated with the act of enabling.
DO NOT: lecture, fight, or yell at the addict. It’s expected to have pent up anger and other strong emotions, and they certainly deserve to be expressed and heard, but consider your audience. Also, consider what a lecture or a fight will accomplish. Pick your battles and chose wisely.
DO: Focus on yourself and that things that make YOU happy. If you want to share your experience to an understanding and empathetic audience you may benefit from Al Anon Family Groups, Nar-Anon, Gam-anon, or other meetings specifically targeted to families of alcoholics and addicts. Even if you chose not to speak and just listen, you will find solace in the fact that you are not alone.