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One of the greatest misconceptions about addiction that it is a choice or that it is reflective of a lack of willpower. In reality, addiction is a chronic disease with devastating consequences. While addiction is hard on the addict, as with many other diseases, it’s also difficult for loved ones who have to witness and experience the effects of the addiction. With this in mind, families may want to “save” their relatives from their illness; however, in their attempts to do so, a bad situation is often made worse.

“When a family member struggles with active addiction, he or she usually under-functions and behaves irresponsibly. This, too, shapes the behavior of other family members,” explained Dan Mager, MSW, in an essay for Psychology Today. “Obviously, you didn’t cause your loved one’s problem, and experience demonstrates (often painfully) that you can’t control the problem—however, there are ways in which family members often unknowingly contribute to the problem.”

In order to help an addicted loved one, boundaries needed to be implemented. Here’s where to start:

Stop funding the addiction

Addicts often rely on their loved ones for financial support. While providing resources that will help meet their basic needs such as food, housing, and clothing when they’re not in the position to do so is admirable, constantly handing over money can enable and fund their addiction. Additionally, you’ll want to be careful not to become a financial crutch.

“Refrain from paying bills for your loved one, from giving them rides to get alcohol or other drugs, from bailing them out of jail on demand, or otherwise doing for them those things they need to be responsible for,” advised Psych Central’s Beth Gruenewald, LMHC, LCAC. “

Detach when boundaries are violated

In any relationship, boundaries are necessary; however, they are essential when you love someone who has an addiction. Boundaries can look very different from relationship to relationship; however, it shouldn’t be overlooked when those boundaries are violated. Taking a break from the addicted person for a period of time may be an appropriate response.

Do not accept abuse

Addiction disrupts families in a host of ways with one of those ways being abuse. Addiction is an ugly disease that can cause people to lash out at their loved ones — both physically and verbally. Although these outbursts can be a side effect of addiction, loved ones seeking to establish healthy boundaries with an addicted relative should not tolerate the abuse or give in to their demands.

Do not attempt to save them from the consequences of their actions

The consequences of addiction are plentiful and can include but are not limited to run-ins with the law, financial repercussions, and problems at work. While it can be painful to watch an addicted loved one suffer, it’s better to not fall into the habit of saving them from the consequences of their actions. In many cases, this will only serve to enable the addiction and potentially make things worse.

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