How to Keep Yourself Safe When Dealing With an Addict?

Addiction recovery literature and treatment programs speak at great length about creating safe and sober environments for individuals struggling with addictive disorders and co-occurring mental health issues. However, creating a safe environment for addiction recovery patient’s significant others, family, and friends is equally as important. Addiction recovery patients are not innately dangerous, but most individuals with addictive disorders need medical help that has been lacking much of their adult life. You would not condemn an individual diagnosed with cancer or an autoimmune disease for their actions both before and during treatment. The same considerations should be given to those diagnosed with addictive disorders.


Addictive disorders are powerful diseases that can cause significant disruption to the lives of diagnosed individuals and their extended family and friends. The actions of those still actively struggling with substance misuse can exact a hefty toll emotionally, financially, and physically. Members of any addiction recovery patient’s support network need to be aware of the potential damages that actions governed by substance misuse can incur and be willing to take the necessary precautionary measures. Preparing yourself can keep you from being blindsided by either more personal, emotional, or financial damage. The same care and concern should be granted to those who wish to provide help and support for a loved one struggling with substance misuse due to an addictive disorder.


Creating Boundaries


When an individual is still actively misusing substances, there are plenty of logistically sensitive safeguards that deal more in the tangible – i.e., property damage, monetary losses, or punitive legal actions – and are easy enough to arrange or workaround. The realization that a loved one who is actively struggling with substance misuse could potentially put you in harm’s way can be uncomfortable, but lying to yourself about the potential reality of this scenario does neither party any good. Friends and family should act in a manner that expects the best yet still plans for the worst. 


Boundaries need to be made in any instance involving a loved one’s continuous substance misuse. It would be best to plan and think about your level of comfort regarding being around addictive behaviors. For example, in any scenario that involves illegal drug use, the question of not knowing if or when they are using is not nearly as important as not knowing if they are holding illicit substances on their person or in their home. The legalities of drug possession can certainly pose a direct risk to family and friends. However, creating a simple boundary to only meet in public places and either pick them up or use separate vehicles when traveling can absolve family and friends of legal risks regarding drug possession. Dependent on the severity of substance misuse, family and friends may also want to place boundaries on vehicle transportation. You probably will not want to rely on an individual who is actively misusing substances for transportation when you are meeting up in a public space.


Making playdates and scheduling times to hang out publicly is a safe way to spend quality time with those who are still misusing substances while still allowing friends and family to provide some level of support. The best form of support in many of these scenarios will be just to listen as an attentive friend. More than likely, loved ones are well aware of their substance misuse issues, and hounding them on the topic only makes matters worse. Providing an outlet to catch up under friendly circumstances can help healthily normalize their situation by making them feel less alone. In these scheduled playdate scenarios, it’s essential not to set up the substance abuser for disappointment.


Enabling vs. Supporting: Understanding the Difference


The difference between support and enabling may seem like it only applies to individuals struggling with substance misuse. However, by creating an atmosphere of active support rather than enabling, family and friends can also create a safer environment for them to help when it comes to addiction recovery. Enabling involves any form of support that runs the risk of perpetuating unhealthy addictive behaviors and habits. For example, giving an individual who is actively misusing substances money to pay their bills can be construed as enabling; instead of simply paying the bill yourself. 


Even if the money does go to pay a utility bill, the overarching reason for that individual to need monetary support still has its roots in substance misuse. This may sound like a lose/lose scenario, and many will indeed find themselves accidentally enabling addictive behaviors. The more friends and family make attempts to support rather than enable, not only will they be benefiting the addiction recovery patient, but they will also be creating a safer environment for themselves to be in the lives of that patient.


Support Groups for Support Networks


As we mentioned previously, substance misuse can take an exacting emotional toll on the individual diagnosed with the addictive disorder and their support networks. Family and friends can experience significant emotional trauma from the fallout of an addictive disorder. For these individuals, support groups have been set up to discuss issues and commiserate with fellow support network members. The most well-known support group for support networks is Al-Anon Family Groups, which has been around since 1951. 


Al-Anon is a worldwide fellowship that offers a program of recovery for the families and friends of individuals struggling with addictive disorders. These groups have scheduled meetings where all attendees are welcome to share what they are going through, ask questions, or even just listen to what others have to share. Participation is voluntary, and meetings are anonymous. This brings a sense of belonging and community, advocating a better understanding that you are not alone. It may also shed some light on the difficulties you have undergone as you gain insight from the experience of others who have walked a similar path. You may even find yourself helping others as well. 


If you or someone you love struggles with substance misuse from an undiagnosed addictive disorder with co-occurring mental health issues, then Choice House has the dual-diagnosis treatment services that can help. We understand that the emotional toll from continuous substance misuse can be overwhelming for both individuals with addictive disorders and their family and friends. That is why we include in our variety of therapeutic modalities the opportunity for men to enter family counseling sessions to better prepare them for the challenges of re-entering their independent lives as sober individuals. As men build a new foundation of love and empathy, they will be encouraged to learn the necessary communication and coping skills to help facilitate conflict resolution among family and friends throughout their transition as they find their path to long-term sobriety. Our addiction recovery treatment services include a 90-day inpatient program, an intensive outpatient service, as well as the chance to take up residency at our sober living campus. Our facilities are situated in the Boulder County area of Colorado between the bustling city of Louisville and the Rocky Mountain National Park; for non-residents of the Boulder area, the location can be an ideal spot to both visit their loved ones while in treatment as well as explore the Rocky Mountains many outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing. For more information regarding Choice House facilities or treatment programs, please give us a call at (720) 577-4422.


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