5 Essential Things To Do For An Addicted Loved One


“Addictions … started out like magical pets, pocket monsters.

They did extraordinary tricks, showed you things you hadn’t seen, were fun. But came, through some gradual dire alchemy, to make decisions for you. Eventually, they were making your most crucial life-decisions.

And they were … less intelligent than goldfish.”


– William Ford Gibson, U.S.-Canadian cyberpunk fiction writer

I don’t have an expert knowledge of cyberpunk, but that quote above is pretty spot on, pretty accurate. Nope, I don’t think I’ve ever even read a cyberpunk novel period, but one thing I do know is this. Unless you find help and treatment, substance addiction will ruin your life, impacting upon it like the proverbial bull in the china shop, smashing and shattering everything in sight, and maybe, just maybe, even end it.

However, if you’ve managed to dodge the bullet of addiction, and it can be very nondiscriminatory, all is good. Unless, of course, it missed you and hit a loved one – your spouse, your partner, another family member or a close friend. It’s important for you to understand you are not – I repeat, not – powerless in helping them.

I know this because the help, the support and, ultimately, the addiction treatment that I received for my years of the severe abuse of meth and alcohol all emanated from the love my own Mom had for me. Maybe, that should read “still had for me.”

My mother and father had had enough of their own suffering too after years of watching their son slowly implode his life through substance abuse that had led me from one dark corner to another, and finally to the darker corner of a prison cell.

So, when at one of my lowest ebbs, as drunk and high as I could get, and not long after my release, they threw me in the back of the family car and drove me to the next state over, where I would spend the next few months rebuilding my life behind the walls of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. Successfully, too.

My family’s actions that day were the beginning of my addiction recovery, one that has continued to last for over 9 years now. However, throwing an addicted and loved someone in the back of your car is not what this article is about.

In 2014, according to official government U.S. studies, 21.5 million of their citizens, and starting at the age of 12 years old, no less, were addicted to drugs or alcohol or both. 12 and over? That is a lot of parents, family members, friends and others all emotionally involved in those addicts’ lives.


So what exactly can you do to help when you are confronted with this chronic and incurable disease that has your loved one in its sinister grip?

Here are the 5 essential things you can for an addicted loved one, and, trust me, no-one has to get thrown into the back of anything (it’s still an option though…). Firstly, it’s about education:

#1. Back To School

Imagine if your loved one had another illness, another disease, that you didn’t really know about, instead of addiction. It’s pretty much guaranteed that you’d be Googling that medical term for it faster than you could run. Yes, guaranteed. Why? Because you want to help them, and nobody likes to see a loved one in distress, physically and emotionally.

Addiction is defined as “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” In other words, someone doesn’t simply wake up one day and think to themselves, “Hey, today I’ll become an addict.” It simply does not work or happen like that. So, it should not be considered some kind of moral failing or personal weakness on their part – it’s a disease, one that may kill the individual eventually if no treatment is sought.


Educating yourself (and other family members) as much as you can about the disease of addiction will put you in a much better position to help your loved one. All the information about getting help and being treated for addiction that you require is there at the touch of a button. Just make sure your read up from recognized sources.

Additionally, you can attend AA meetings, seek advice from physicians, mental health doctors and addiction professionals, and seek out additional information from the range of addiction recovery books that are out there.

#2. Lose Any Guilt

Once you are more educated about addiction itself, you will understand one important fact – none of this, absolutely none of it, was your fault. With a clear conscience, you can lose any guilt that you may be feeling regarding your loved one’s addiction.

They didn’t become addicted because of you, and you certainly did not guide them that way. Importantly, you also need to remember that you sure can’t cure this either and you can’t control it either, but you can always help.

#3. Enabling Is Not Causing

Ok, home truth time. Bearing in mind what has been written above, there is something that happens very often in these situations, and it is called “enabling.” Enabling is the misguided attempt to try to control what’s going on with the addiction itself. In other words, enabling is simply misguided love.

In practical terms, your actions may be allowing the addiction to continue. Please look at the questions below and please answer them truthfully:


  • Do you find yourself apologizing on their behalf? This could be to other family members, their work colleagues, even their school.
  • Do you give or loan them money?
  • Do you support them financially in other ways, like pay bills, etc.?
  • Do you find yourself trying to hide their dysfunctional behavior from others?
  • Do you clear away evidence of their addiction?
  • Have you ever protected them from being arrested?

No, they are not easy questions to answer, by any means. However, the more honest you are with yourself about the situation you are in, the better placed you will be to help your loved one.

Think on this. If you actually do any of the above things, they will feel protected and will look upon your actions as some kind of approval; “It’s all ok. They love me. I don’t have to stop using/drinking.”

None of this will be easy, least of all, this part. The most positive action you can now take is to allow the consequences of their actions to happen naturally, as hard as that may be. Like I said, none of this is easy. However, the chances of them accepting help and its treatment will increase dramatically.

#4. Oxygen Masks In Airplanes

The best analogy that comes to mind… Remember the flight safety instructions you hear and see prior to your plane taking off? Remember that important part about oxygen masks? The part that says you must always put your own oxygen mask over your mouth before helping others with theirs, even your kids sat next to you?

Welcome to helping an addicted loved one. You are now facing a similar situation, and hopefully without the impending crash. The most vital part of all this is you. You must help yourself first. I repeat – you must help yourself first. If you don’t, and this is another home truth, you may well end up being no help at all.

Sadly, having been such a part of their lives for so long, it may have taken a toll on your mental health. Unbeknown to even you, you may be suffering from one of the following:


● Depression

● Anxiety




So before helping them, help yourself. See your doctor, get yourself checked over physically and have a good, frank discussion about how you are feeling and the situation you are now facing.

#5. Intervention

Progressive and chronic addiction can be deadly, just like any other disease. Therefore, you must speak with them whenever they are sober and insist they seek the help of a professional. If there is no agreement, your next step is an intervention. An intervention, instigated by you and with professional assistance from an addiction specialist, and possibly other family members and close friends, can get them into a rehabilitation facility that can help them find a path to recovery.

That’s my advice to you – the 5 essential things you must do if your loved one is facing addiction: educate yourself, lose your guilt, think about the harmful effect of enabling, looking after yourself (you are still your biggest priority), and intervention. Remember, if they are aware that your love and support throughout what follows will definitely continue, their chance of recovery increases. May I wish you both well.