Can I Help Him Quit?
The short answer is, “No.” You cannot help a person quit drugs. The desire and motivation need to come from that person directly. The change occurs inside and manifests as new thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors.
Still, it is natural that you should want to help someone you love who is suffering from addiction. As a disease, addiction changes how the brain functions and the addict may find it hard to help themselves.
You have to know that your significant other who is suffering from addiction will not have the same way of thinking as you. Empathy, understanding, and patience are needed. You may have to stretch the limits of your patience to the point where you bear a lot of pain on behalf of both of you.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if the person you love is an addict.
1. Educate yourself about the disease of addiction.
Addiction is a disease that is incredibly hard to get away from. Thinking of it as a “choice” your boyfriend makes can add blame and shame to an already bad situation. People who are battling with severe addiction cases undergo a significant personality change to the point where they seem to become a completely different person. Bear in mind however, that the person you love is still somewhere inside, trapped by addiction.
You cannot force your boyfriend into recovery, but you can offer him caring support and guide him to this outcome. You may feel let down or disappointed in the situation, but putting that to one side to focus on his recovery is important, in order to not add to the shame of addiction by focusing on this disappointment.
2. Talk to him and plan an intervention.
Have a conversation when he is sober and stable. Being calm and honest when you speak is important so he will not feel attacked or cornered. Avoid being too quick to judge, or bringing judgmental statements into the conversation.
Ultimatums are also best avoided, as they will potentially add more stress to your boyfriend but having definite consequences if no action is taken may be a sensible backup plan. Having a family member or professional interventionist is likely to be a good idea as they will help keep the conversation moving and show your boyfriend how their behavior affects the others they care about.
3. Practice listening with empathy.
Your boyfriend will have cravings. They can be persistent and drive him to seek relief when he is craving for the substance, but you will need to be firm and tell him that he can do without drinking or drugging. Make sure you listen carefully to him if he opens up about why he uses. It can be hard to get your boyfriend to be honest, to capture the moment if he decides to share openly.
4. Support but do not enable.
There is a distinct difference between helping and enabling an addiction. A helper knows how their actions will help the individual, where an enabler may be trying to keep the peace or settle a situation without dealing with the core issue and may involve simply covering up, or making excuses for your boyfriend’s behavior.
A helper does not always say ‘yes’. While you may not be able to remove your boyfriend’s addiction, you can play a role in helping him. For the sake of both of you, you need to stand your ground and stay strong, rather than give up and simply pity your boyfriend.
5. Set healthy boundaries in the relationship.
Boundaries are important in a relationship with an addict. They teach him that he is not entitled to do whatever he wants. Be clear and specific, make sure that you make the boundaries firm in a nurturing and loving way, and follow through on any consequences. Remember however that it’s likely you cannot “force” your boyfriend to stop.
6. Find support, from friends, and from 12 step groups.
You can offer him help to find support groups around your area or an appropriate rehab treatment based on his needs and condition. You could try to reach out to a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) group. In NA group meetings, the fellowship and peer support help your boyfriend to share and be honest about his struggle with addiction. Usually, NA meetings are frequently offered as part of a rehab program. Another benefit is that your boyfriend will have a healthier and sober social network and environment, which will support his recovery. If you boyfriend has a sober friend who does not get involved in his using, enlist the support of this friend if appropriate.
Dealing with an addicted loved one may be painful and full of madness. There is support available for partners of addicts via organisations such as Nar-Anon. Nar-Anon is based on a 12-Step approach. Despite its different literature and membership (family and loved ones of addicts), ultimately it has the same aim as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and it will allow you to share your story or experience whilst helping your boyfriend battle addiction.
7. Make sure you are fit and well enough to be a strong support.
You might end up neglecting yourself in the process of helping your loved one. It is important to make sure that you are physically, mentally, and emotionally stable before helping your partner. Bear in mind that you cannot take care of another if you do not take care of yourself first. You may want to find someone to blame, or find yourself blaming yourself, or your boyfriend. Remember that playing blame-game helps no one.
Some Final Words of Wisdom
Do not be afraid to let him know that you love him.
Let him know you will always be there to help.
Have a faith that you and your loved one can overcome the disease and live a wonderful life.
And work together to get there.