Oftentimes in our lives, we find ourselves in situations where we feel, either consciously or subconsciously, trapped. Whether it’s growing up in a dysfunctional household or going to school to pursue a career for the approval of loved ones, it can be difficult to maintain positivity when there doesn’t seem to be an escape. Sometimes in these situations, however, the feeling of hopelessness can manifest into a sinister form: the justification of bad circumstances with the reasoning that “things could be worse.”
When I was an adolescent, I let myself stay invested in a few one-sided friendships; in which I wanted to spend time and be involved with them, but they did not want to do the same with me. Even though there were only a few moments of true happiness when we were together, and I always had an uneasy feeling of disappointment, I would tell myself something along the lines of “Well, at least I have friends. I should appreciate what I’ve got.” I also was shy and didn’t have much courage, so I was afraid to take the leap of faith and try to meet new people.
People who live with friends, roommates, family members, and others with substance use problems often feel the pain and consequences of a user’s daily consumption of their vice of choice. Sometimes the struggles of living with a person who has a usage problem are not extremely harsh or poignant. Some can maintain their work and/or school life while also maintaining their substance use.
However, over time, as in all relationships, issues related to the usage issues can build up and strain the relationship between them and the people around them. If you’re living with, or regularly interacting with, someone who has a substance usage problem, but you can’t bring yourself to confront them about it because it doesn’t seem to be negatively affecting you enough to be worth the stress and pain, here are some strategies and techniques that may be able to help you:
Allow them to vent to you about their daily struggles
Someone who suffers from substance addiction/use may experience problems at their job or other places that they frequent, and they may not know how to process their feelings of frustration, anxiety, anger, and sadness. Offering to simply listen and allow them to say what ever’s on their mind while making sure they feel completely comfortable and under no type of pressure or examination, may help them reach a point where they are ready to start thinking about making changes to their decisions.
Make them feel valued and appreciated
People who have substance abuse problems often have extremely low self-esteem/sense of self-worth; they secretly feel shameful of their addiction and, because of this, choose to avoid any activity, discussion, or interaction that may remind them of their self-perceived failure.
Taking action to help boost their confidence/self-esteem, such as congratulating them for successes that they can’t bring themselves to congratulate themselves for, or surprising them with heartfelt words (in the form of a card or something else), may brighten them up enough to where they have enough self-love to say to themselves “I deserve to not be burdened by this addiction” and start taking the steps to get clean.
To some extent, however, there is a potential element of unfairness in this approach. Nobody wants to feel like they aren’t being appreciated, and this feeling can become more intense if one person in a relationship is consistently giving more than they are receiving. This leads to the next strategy.
Create a healthy amount of distance and explain why to them
While someone may be ready to overcome their addiction, they may not be ready to lead a life where you can live with/interact with them the same amount as you used to. Keeping a healthy amount of distance and limiting the time spent with them, if done correctly, can help them recognize the damage they have caused and understand that they will need to be able to push themselves without others to some extent.
This does not mean that you should avoid them and not be there for them when it’s clear they need help. This technique is meant to help put you in a position where you are not saddled with the additional burden of having someone in your life who has concluded that you are their savior and that they cannot function without you.
I hope this post brings clarity to someone who may be struggling with the types of situations I have described. Having a friend, family member, or loved one who is dealing with addiction can be tough, but it’s worth it to get to the other side of the struggle. For more information and support, visit Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia. They are here to help! rpsva.org
Guest Blogger: Raphael B