One of the hardest situations that a family can face is having a loved one suffering from addiction. Families face a huge dilemma, in which they want to show love and support for their suffering loved one, but that loved one isn’t getting better and often seems to be getting worse. The question families need to ask themselves is this: “Am I literally loving this person to death?”
This is tricky water to navigate, as love and connection are considered the healing balm by many experts in addiction recovery, while codependency and enabling bad behavior is considered the poison that ultimately may contribute to the death of their loved ones. How do you know if you are on the spectrum of healthy love and connection or on the side of codependency and enabling?
If you find yourself making excuses for your loved one’s bad behavior, giving them money for drugs, allowing them to steal from you, allowing them to live in your home, or even driving them to their drug dealer because you are worried that they won’t make it home, then you may be loving them to death.
If you are holding loved ones accountable, seeking therapy, education, and holding safe boundaries then you are loving them to LIVE. This space may seem impossible to navigate, but I assure you it is possible and there is hope for your loved one—but, you must stop loving them to death. You must learn how to support them in the right ways. Sometimes, this means letting them experience pain in order to find purpose. AA expresses pain and purpose with the belief that people change when they reach the point where the pain of staying the same becomes greater than pain to change.
Change is furthered by understanding that addiction is a family disease and that as any member of the family improves in mental health it has an effect on all members of the family system. We encourage family members to create safe and healing environments with safe boundaries before letting an addict in recovery return home. It is one of the saddest things to witness when a loved one with addiction gets treatment of 30-90 days or more, feeling inspired and ready for a
new life to then return to a family home with things that trigger addiction—codependent relationships and enabling behaviors. It becomes incredibly difficult for this loved one to stay sober and much too often relapse occurs—or even death becomes the outcome.
Love is the answer, but it must be conditional. Love must be separated from its counterfeits of codependency and enabling look alikes. Love must start with each member of the system loving themselves. Love is being teachable, humble, and having charity towards oneself and others. Love is forgiveness, acceptance and hope. I believe in family healing from addiction. I’ve witnessed it time and time again. If you are using and want help, or if you have a family member that is suffering and you are willing to change with them, reach out to I Am Recovery & Counseling.