We all worry about our loved ones. We help them face the everyday challenges of life and lend the shoulder to cry on that everyone needs from time to time. But what if their challenges aren’t day-to-day? What if they’re dealing with crippling anxiety, outbursts of aggression, alcoholism, or substance abuse? Even when their problems are far beyond your grasp, you can still help.
Talk and listen
Talking to them about their issues frankly for the first time can be intimidating, especially if you’re trying to get them to admit it. The best way to go about it is to get as informed on the issue as possible, show that you’re there to accept and to help them, but don’t act like you have all the answers. When talking about addiction and mental health, everyone’s experience of it is individualized. The best way to learn about it is to listen to the individual sufferer, themselves.
Help them realize their options
However, when it comes to taking practical steps in dealing with whatever demons they’re fighting, you could end up a lot more informed than them. The idea of talking to a counselor or going to an alcohol and drug rehab center can be very intimidating for an individual. Ask them if they would like you to do some research and help them find out what options are available to them. You might even visit a center or a support group with them, just so they don’t feel so vulnerable and alone in an environment that can initially feel confrontational.
Be part of the change
You are going to play a secondary role to whatever kind of help your loved one gets if they take advantage of the services out there to help them. You might not know what changes they will be asked to make in their life, but you have to be willing to be part of that change. Sometimes, they may be trying healthy habits like a new exercise which you can join in to make it easier and even a little more fun for them. But you have to be prepared to make sacrifices if it’s what they need, too. For instance, if there’s a concern you engage in enabling behavior, you might need to address some of your own shortcomings.
You are not responsible for sacrificing yourself for the sake of a friend or a loved one. Learn that first and foremost. If you’re willing to spend your time and energy helping them change their life, that is great. But if they show signs of changing and they start demanding things of you that you’re uncomfortable with, such as lying for them or funding their problems, you have to be prepared to walk away from them.
At the end of the day, the only person who can turn a loved one back from self-destructive behavior is themselves. Make sure you’re not framing yourself as the savior in this story, it’s an easy way to end up with an unhealthy relationship and too much stress of your own.