“Sometimes ‘no’ is the kindest word.”
~ Vironika Tugaleva
Saying no may be one of the most difficult things a person can do, so how can you say no and stay strong when you’re living with and loving an addict? For an addict, the word ‘no’ can be very inflammatory – staying strong in the face of their reaction can often be quite difficult.
While there is no scientific answer to this problem, we do our best here to provide some guidance for both living with and loving an addict. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you should not expect to be able to say no every time and stay strong completely on your own – you need help, support and to be able to talk to people who are going through something similar. Keep this in mind as you read through this post, and do not hesitate to reach out today.
How to Say No to Someone You Love
As the quote above from Vironika Tugaleva points out, saying no may be most loving, kindest thing you can do for your loved one if they are struggling to recover from their addiction. But that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. The key is to remember that this is not your only role – you have a much more important part to play in helping your loved one through addiction treatment.
Since you are living with your loved one, you have a crucial role to play in their addiction recovery. Whether it is your son, daughter, husband, wife, partner, or a parent struggling to overcome their addiction, they are going to need your help. As their family and loved one, you not only have the ability but also the responsibility to say no when they are in danger of relapsing. You may not be trained as an addiction counselor or occupational therapist, but you are their first line of defense. The American Occupational Therapy Association lays out four specific ways that family members and loved ones can support an addict in overcoming their drug or alcohol abuse:
- Collaborate with the occupational therapist and other health professionals to learn more about drug and alcohol abuse.
- Support a friend or family member with a substance abuse problem so that he or she does not have a relapse and can engage in healthy alternative activities to enhance their quality of life.
- Help the recovering addict with developing and maintaining relationships that encourage alcohol and drug-free environment.
- Attend self-help groups, such as Al-Anon, to receive ongoing support and education.
In shorthand, it is your role to collaborate, support, help and seek out help. In other words, you are not simply there to say ‘no’. Your role is much bigger than that, and with that comes a new level of freedom.
“If someone you care about has asked for help, he or she has taken an important first step. If that person is resistant to help, see if you can at least convince him or her to get an evaluation from a doctor. Emphasize to your loved one that it takes a lot of courage to seek help for a drug problem because there is a lot of hard work ahead. Treatment enables people to counteract the powerfully disruptive effects of drugs on the brain and behavior and to regain control of their lives. Like many diseases, it can take several attempts at treatment to find the right approach. But assure your loved one that you will be supportive in his or her courageous effort.”
~ The National Institute on Drug Abuse
Living and loving the one you are with does not have to mean struggling through the backlash of saying no to their addiction or else feeling the guilty weight when you enable them. It is not that kind of choice. Instead, recognizing that you have a larger, important role to play in their recovery can help you learn how to say no and stay strong when you’re living with and loving an addict.
Strategies for Staying Strong When Living with an Addict
There is no question that taking care of an addict can be exhausting, and many people find it difficult to continue to stay strong in their collaboration and support. While these are not exhaustive, some of the following tips should help you stay strong when living with and loving an addict.
#1: Learn the Difference Between What You Can and Can’t Do
This is one of the creeds of Alcoholics Anonymous, and equally applies to those looking to help an addict through recovery. Remind yourself that you cannot control the actions of others – you can only control your reaction. Don’t get disheartened if your loved one relapses, just remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing.
#2: Check Your Behavior for Enabling Actions
Sometimes it is possible to slip into an enabling, rather than helping, mindset without even realizing. Consider taking this quiz on enabling behavior to ensure this is not the case. Take the time to make sure you are actually helping the one you love, rather than enabling them – even just checking yourself can help you stay strong.
#3: Join a Support Group for Family and Loved Ones of Addicts
As we mentioned above, continuing to say no to your loved one can be beyond difficult. It is crucial that you find a support group for those who are going through a similar situation. This can help you process your challenges, come up with strategies, and provide you with a forum to be listened to.
Living with and loving an addict can be trying, and you should not have to go through it alone. Thankfully, many addiction treatment approaches including family counseling programs, which can not only empower individuals to overcome their addiction but also help entire families learn to support one another.
If you still have questions, or a story to share, about how to say no and stay strong while living with and loving an addict, feel free to either contact us or leave a comment below.