Posted by: breathliftlive | 15/02/2011


Strength is something you need to have an amazing amount of when dealing with a loved ones addiction. It’s an uphill battle that can, at times, seem unending.

Dealing with the addiction can be tiring and will trigger many emotions like anger, hurt and sadness. If you can see even a glimmer of hope, hold onto that and try and keep going. The situation will always remain the same unless you can try and implement changes, no matter how small. You need to be patient, consistent and unrelenting. There will most definitely be times when all you want to do is pack up and go.

There will come the time when you realise the addiction has become a major problem, one that needs to be addressed and faced head on. Most of you in this situation would have experienced the anger and denial from your loved one when you approach them on the topic. One thing I learned was that initially, when I approached Tim and was met with fierce denial and anger, Tim explained (later on) that deep down he knew he had a problem but being told and hearing it out loud was horrific and terrifying. Changing his addiction meant changing his life and everything he had become so used to and to a lot of people, change is a scary thing.

I would go in all guns blazing and think that a simple talk (or fight) would get things moving along. Wrong! It started with light conversation, not interrogation. I needed to try and work out what was causing him stress. How was work? How was he getting along with his colleagues? How was he feeling about home? His home life? This began a conversation, a dialogue. As much as I wanted all the answers then and there, I had to take it slow. Too many questions or too much conversation made him reject the whole thing or shut down and get angry and walk away.

Over time, Tim’s bad habits and my bad reactions to them became ‘the norm’. We had to try and find a way to gradually change the little things so when we did change the little things, they then became ‘the norm’. This meant I had to try (really hard!) to change how I reacted to things. When I would find out that he had gambled I would immediately fly off the handle. Instead, I would either try and talk about it (as angry as I was) or let him know I needed to think about the situation and calm down before I could discuss it. Gradually, as he realised I wouldn’t just go instantly crazy when he gave me ‘the news’, he felt a little more comfortable being able to tell me straight away which meant the secrets became less and less. This is hard, let me tell you. When I would find out he gambled again, every piece of me wanted to scream. It took a while for me to stop that but once I did, I noticed a change.

The process was definitely one of ‘one step forward, two steps back’. We would feel like we would get somewhere then he would relapse. I began to recognise the emotions he was experiencing after the relapse like disappointment, anger and shame. I would talk to him about these emotions to try and get him to recognise these emotions and have him realise that these were feelings he didn’t like or want. He also needed to hear what his actions were doing to others, how they were affecting his family. Once we began talking more, it was harder for him to be in denial about the situation.

When you do talk to your loved one, you need to try to time it right. Starting an important conversation while the tv is on, dinner is cooked, the kids are running around or if they (or you) are already in a mood is not the right time. Try and wait until the house is calm, make a coffee and sit down together when there are little or no interruptions. You can ask questions but need to give them the time to answer. Listening is the first step. Once they realise you will listen (as much as what they’re saying is something you don’t really want to hear), they will eventually open up more.

Another important factor is that you need to believe that they can change, that they can work through this and that things will get better. You can have doubts, it’s only natural, but if you don’t truly believe it then how can they? You’ll need to be consistent but not pushy. If your methods aren’t working then you can change tactics but you have to keep going. You will probably get the “it’s none of your business”, “who asked for your opinion?”, “I’ll sort it out myself” etc. I truly understand how it feels to feel helpless in this situation. Sometimes I didn’t want to deal with it at all. When I felt I was trying and he wasn’t I felt “why bother?”. It will get tougher before it gets easier but you have to be strong, yet gentle in your approach and persevere.

If things are going well and there is an ongoing conversation, it may be the time to see if they’re ready for some help. This may take some time and could be met with resistance. I know Tim was not at all keen on the idea of discussing something so painful and personal with a stranger. Once he came around to the idea we looked into the types of help available and the decision was left up to him. Tim needed to be the one that decided what method suited him and he also needed to make the decision for himself and for no one else.

Getting them to start treatment is difficult. The thought of it can be terrifying for them but honestly, it is the best thing. Allow them the space to speak to the counsellor alone. They may feel freer to speak their mind without you in the room. Again, patience is the key. Encourage them and don’t drill them on their conversations with the counsellor. As much as we want to know what’s happening and if it’s working, we need to allow them space. You will need to prepare yourself for relapse so when if/when it does occur you will be able to deal with it, instead of it coming as a shock.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I truly believe in going to counselling with your loved one. Once they feel comfortable speaking to someone, suggest to them that you’d like to go to. Don’t make it their only option. Let them know they are still free to go alone but that you would also like to go to sessions with them.

So, my rather long post can be summed up like this. You will need more strength that you ever thought you had, but you do have it. Show empathy for your loved one and what they are going through. Look at how you react to the situations and ask yourself if there’s something you can change to help. Listen more. Prepare yourself for things you may not want to hear and for relapse. Be sensitive and gentle but powerful in your approach and stand up for yourself and your family. Be consistent. Drop any expectations you may have and just take it a day at a time. Seek help.

Most importantly, take care of you. This can be draining and painful at times so make sure you can get plenty of rest, eat well and take time out for you. If it is getting on top of you, talk to the counsellor yourself.

I’d love to hear from you so please, send me an email to or leave a comment below.

Take care and be strong

Kate x


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