If you love somebody who is addicted to drugs, remember that they’re in control. They chose to start down this path. You can help by being there for them when they want to stop and redirecting their attention to healthier options.
You can also try to get them into treatment as soon as possible. Many rehabs specialize in treating drug addiction, and many of them accept insurance.
Here are ten steps that will help you have a healthy relationship with a drug addict:
Acceptance means you no longer try to control what your partner does. Instead, you accept them as they are.
For example, your loved one may spend all day on social media. Or they may drink every weekend. The only thing you can do is accept it. Then, decide together whether or not this behavior is worth giving up some of your freedom for.
Indeed, the first step in a healthy relationship is acceptance. The reason for this is simple: if you truly accept the other person, you can begin to understand them and their issues. But it’s not just about understanding them – it’s also about accepting yourself.
After all, you can only truly understand yourself through honest self-reflection and critical thinking. So to have a healthy relationship with an addict, you must accept yourself. How do you do that? By being open to new experiences, opinions, and ideas.
It would be best if you also were ok with making mistakes.
Here are the three levels of acceptance:
- Level 1: I’ll try. Next time, I’ll be better at it.
- Level 2: I understand. It isn’t very easy.
- Level 3: I’m ok with it. It’s part of who they are.
In theory, you should always strive for level 3 acceptance. In practice, though, you have to judge the situation and your loved one’s level of acceptance on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes drug addicts are at level 1, and you need to accept that.
Other times they’re at level 3, and you need to help them level up. So yeah, it’s a moving target.
Immediately after acceptance, the next logical step is to understand. And this is especially true when you want to improve a troubled relationship.
Why is understanding so important?
Here’s a powerful real-life example:
My friend’s mom was an alcoholic. Their dad didn’t know how to deal with her addiction, so he avoided the subject whenever possible. As a result, my friend’s relationship with her mother was severely damaged. They didn’t speak for years at a time.
When they did talk, it was only about the most superficial topics. Eventually, my friend stopped trying to understand and just accepted it.
Because it’s the foundation of any relationship, it’s the first step toward connecting on a personal level.
And it’s the first step toward creating a healthy relationship with an addict.
Here’s how to have a healthy relationship with a drug addict:
First, you need to understand
- What’s going on for them?
- Why do they use it?
- What triggers them to use?
- Do they use it alone or with others?
- How do their relationships with family, friends, and coworkers affect their drug use?
You can’t just “accept” someone’s depression or anxiety. You have to understand what’s happening in the addicted person’s brain and how it impacts them. And if you accept them in that way, you can start to develop strategies to help them feel less anxious.
Mirroring is when you reflect on your loved ones what they say. It is saying, “What I see you doing, I’m going to do too.” It helps create a deeper connection between two people.
Here are some examples of mirroring in action:
Your loved one says something like, “I wish my ex would just get back in touch with me.” You say, “I’m so sorry you’re going through that.
Another example, let’s say they just said:
“I feel so stupid. I don’t know why I’m torturing myself like that.” You would respond by saying: “It’s ok if you feel stupid. You didn’t know any better.”
Or maybe they just said: “I hate how much I disappoint my family.
In that case, you’d say something like: “I can imagine how hard it is to disappoint your family. It must be even harder when you’re not in your right mind.
Reflection is the process of taking stock of what’s happening in your relationship right now. And it’s super important for maintaining a healthy connection. When you reflect on your relationship, you take an honest look at how things are going.
You also think about the future. And this helps you plan for the future. How do you reflect? Write about how you feel about your relationship. Then, think about the pros and cons of being in it.
That will help you know what to focus on when you start building your new relationship from scratch.
To be empathic, you need to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. When you truly understand what another person is feeling, you can more effectively relate to them. And you can make healthier decisions together.
Empathy is key for maintaining a healthy relationship with an addict.
If you understand what your loved one is going through, you can show them more compassion when they’re using it. You can also recognize the signs that they’re about to use it again so you can intervene. Emotional addiction is a real thing.
To put empathy into practice, ask your loved one’s questions that force them to think about themselves.
Here are a few examples of empathy:
- What’s something that you want?
- Do you want to lose weight?
- Do you want to meet someone special?
- Right now, what is most important in your life?
- What’s the scariest thing that could happen in the future?
- These types of questions help your loved one feel understood and validated.
Empathy only works if you truly listen. So shut off your phone, turn off the TV, and pay attention to your loved one.
Defusion is the process of thinking about a healthy relationship without emotionally getting attached to it. In other words, it’s not focusing on the problems in your relationship. Instead, you focus on the facts.
For example, let’s say your partner just said: “I can’t believe I kept this from you. I was so selfish.” Your initial thought may be: “How could you keep something like this from me? I trusted you.”.
Indeed, you did trust him. But that doesn’t change the fact that he was a total jerk for keeping this from you. So when you deflect your thoughts about your relationship, you can stay objective.
That helps you make better decisions in your relationship and leads to less arguing and conflict.
Here are some examples of defusion at work: My boyfriend and I have been together for two years now. It’s going great. But whenever I bring up the fact that we’ve been together for two years now, his response is always:
“Oh yeah? So what?”. I know that he’s just trying to be honest, but it ticks me off. Defusion allows you to separate fact from fiction. In my case, I realized that my boyfriend does think the two-year mark is insignificant. So I keep my opinions to myself.
Defusion is a skill that takes practice. But over time, you get better at it. And it becomes second nature.
Paying attention to the present moment is mindfulness. It’s like meditation, except you’re not trying to clear your mind or achieve anything in particular. Instead, you’re just observing what’s happening around you.
That is, you’re “being present.”
Mindfulness can improve your relationship in a bunch of different ways.
First of all, when you pay attention to what’s happening in your relationship, you notice things that you might otherwise miss.
For example, my boyfriend and I recently discovered that we have very different sleeping schedules. I go to bed at 1 am and get up at 11 am. My boyfriend stays up until midnight and gets up at 6 am. That was something we would have overlooked if we weren’t paying attention. And this kind of thing adds depth to your relationship.
Second, when you practice mindfulness, you become more accepting of who your partner is. After all, you’re accepting things as they are right now, at this moment.
You’re practicing non-judgmental awareness. When you practice mindfulness, you can recognize unhealthy thinking patterns (like overthinking and rumination). And you can replace those thoughts with more productive ones.
Research shows that mindfulness helps you form healthier relationships with others.
According to one study, people who practice mindfulness were less likely to engage in conflict compared to those who didn’t practice mindfulness.
If you’ve ever seen a Zen master sitting in silence on a mountain, that’s what mindfulness feels like.
8. Values Clarification
Values Clarification is a great way to improve your healthy relationship. In short, you and your partner agree on values. Then, you write down what those values are. Finally, you decide on one value to act on as a team.
This process takes the emotion out of values. That means you can make decisions based solely on the values that matter to you.
Here’s an example of values clarification – How this might look:
In my case, my partner and I decided that we wanted to save money for a house (value). We also agreed that we wanted our house to be in a safe neighborhood (consequence).
So when it came time to choose a consequence, we both chose “feeling more secure about where we live.” Then, we decided on what we should do to achieve that value:
pay off debt or put money into a retirement account.
The benefit of Values Clarification is that you and your partner can align on values. Then, create a plan to act on those values. That way, you can stay committed to each other even when things get hard.
Values Clarification is especially important for long-term relationships. When you know what you value in a relationship, you have something to fall back on when things get tough.
Research shows that clarifying values leads to deeper relationship bonds.
Phrases Commitment Phrases are phrases that you say to your partner when you’re committed to them. Examples include “from this day forward,” “forever,” and “until death do us part.”
These types of phrases communicate the depth of your commitment to your partner. And they permit them to do the same thing. For example, my boyfriend and I decided to commit to being together forever. We also decided to write this down on paper. Simple!
10. Physical Touch
There’s a reason why physical touch is one of the best ways to improve your relationship. When you touch your partner, they naturally release the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin makes people feel loved, accepted, and cared for.
When you make them feel this way, they will more likely trust you. That’s why you want to make sure you touch your partner often and for various reasons.