We all care for our loved ones and want to protect them as best as we can from the troubles in life. However, there are some people who aren’t so easily protected. Some people are driven to or trapped by self-destructive behaviors. Substance dependency, activity dependency, and self-harm can be harder to fight against that a disease of external injury. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t help those facing struggles with such behavior. Here, we’ll look at what you can do not just for your loved one but for yourself.
When you’re faced with something as unknown and scary as substance abuse or self-harm, it’s easy to react to it with hostility. However, someone who is suffering doesn’t need you to bring the fire and brimstone approach. Be flexible, open, be non-confrontational. This way of helping them open up about their illness is a lot more likely to be persuasive. As are the facts. Be aware of the dangers of their self-destructive behavior and be honest about them. Get educated on the signs that they’re struggling with or partaking in whatever behavior they’re addicted to, as well. It can be particularly helpful if they are in denial about the risks.
Know the role you might be playing
If you’re particularly close to the person, then you have to come to the conclusion that you might play some role in their addiction or illness. Not just because your relationship might contribute to certain emotional health issues they’re dealing with. A lot of people tend to be enablers without noticing it. Enabling comes in all shapes and sizes. Lending money to someone with substance abuse issues or a gambling addiction. Lying to cover up for their issues. Making excuses for them or helping them rationalize their behavior. Enabling a self-destructive person allows them to continue down their path without any sense of repercussion.
In most cases, the help of a professional is going to be necessary. But that step is one of the hardest ones that someone with self-destructive tendencies can take. By getting informed with them, you can make sure they’re not alone in taking that step. For instance, you can go with them to a doctor’s’ appointment if they’re nervous or scared to ask questions initially. You can also research different treatments on offer. If there’s an addiction treatment center near you, you can read more about their center and see how exactly they tackle the issue. There is going to be a time when you have to take a step back and let the professionals do their work without you, too.
Helping them stay on the right path
When your loved one commits to “getting clean” and cutting their destructive tendencies from their life, that doesn’t mean it’s over yet. Particularly in cases of addiction, you are dealing with compulsions that will always be a part of their makeup throughout the rest of their life. But you can be there to serve as another influencing voice towards the right direction. For instance, you can play a role in helping them stay accountable. You can also see if they’ve learned any of their triggers and play a role in helping them stay away from them. If someone with alcohol abuse issues knows that big parties are a trigger for them, for instance, you can be there to remind them of that when they get tempted.
Don’t try to take it all on yourself
You can help someone with problematic behaviors. However, it’s important to be aware that you can’t fix them. Staying on a more positive life-track is an effort that has to be made for life, it’s not a disease that gets cured with a few months of therapy or a stay in a recovery center. When you’re helping them, you should also be aware of the potential toll it’s taking on yourself. With addiction, self-harm, and emotional health issues like depression, it can be tough. You have to try and be patient and realistic, but you also must set limits on how much of yourself you give to their recovery. Otherwise, you can be heading down an unhealthy path of co-dependence yourself.
When it comes to mental illness and self-destructive behavior, compassion is always more effective than condemnation. But you have to watch for the boundaries of self-sacrifice or enable, neither of which help anyone in the end. Every step you can take in giving help or seeking it with them is a step in the right direction. It can feel like a long fight, even life-long, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth fighting.