How to Show Compassion to an Addict

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When there’s an addict in the family, showing compassion may be the last thing on your mind. Sure, you love your family member and want nothing more than emotional and physical healing for them. Yet it’s frustrating when they continue to lie, steal and upset others in the family.

Photo Credit: FreeImages.com/TomS

You might give your loved one ultimatums or try to set boundaries, but they always disappoint. How are you supposed to display compassion for someone like this? And if you do try to be more understanding, how do you know when it’s crossed the line to enablement?

Each addict and each family is unique, so it’s difficult to generalize what’s right in every situation. But, there are some steps you can take to help.

Start by Assessing Your Circumstances

Begin by looking at your situation objectively. Is your loved one a new addict or a long-term abuser? Have they sought treatment? Do they recognize that they have a problem?

It’s important to get an honest assessment of your situation so that you can determine where compassion may be needed. If your loved one has gone to treatment and attended meetings but relapsed, they will need different attention than someone who denies everything.

Consider Your Relationship

The closer you are to the addict, the more “real” everything is to you. This can make it difficult to separate yourself from the turmoil going on in the home. To be compassionate, detach yourself and look at things objectively. Education and family support groups can be helpful in better understanding the pattern of addiction.

Tend to Your Own Well-Being

In order to offer support and compassion, you must work through your own emotions. Take care of yourself by following healthy and consistent eating, sleeping and exercise patterns. Spend time each day de-stressing with a hot bath or good book. See a counselor or join a support group for families of addicts.

Once you can approach your loved one’s condition with more compassion, here are some suggestions.

  • Listen empathetically: When your loved one is ready to talk, listen. Set aside your biases and judgments. Think of what it’s like to live in their skin.
  • Understand addiction: No one chooses to be addicted. Addiction is a progressive disease that grabs hold of some. Educate yourself on what it’s like to live with this disease.
  • Focus on what you share: Point out how you and your loved one are alike in many ways and want the same things: happiness, love, acceptance.
  • Spend time together: Remind your loved one of what normalcy is. Rent a movie. Attend a support group. Show them that you’re hopeful of your relationship.

It is possible to be compassionate to your loved one without condoning the behavior that you don’t want. The key is to show support and understanding while encouraging treatment. When your loved one is ready to seek recovery, they will know that they have a loving and supportive environment to return to.