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How taking care of YOURSELF might spur a loved one into treatment

This is a guest post from interventionist and family counselor Ricki Townsend. Ricki volunteers to lead Clean & Sober Recovery Services' FREE and confidential family support meetings. Call us at (916) 990-0190 to learn more.

There are 23 million Americans living in active, long-term recovery. Addicts make the choice to use and abuse and to be miserable; or they can wake up and say, “Enough is enough. I know that I need to and am able to stop this horrible way of living.” We can choose to suffer with our loved ones, or we can say, “I am not willing to participate in your destruction. You can be a part of my life only if you seek and stick with recovery.” Those are tough but powerful words, and I have seen them galvanize tremendous change.

This is a personal decision for each one of us. You and I cannot insist on it or push our beloved addicts or alcoholics into treatment. We can only take care of ourselves through counseling, spiritual support, Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, friends who understand the burdens of this family disease or online support sites. As they say on the airplanes, “Put the oxygen mask on yourself first.” Spend more time supporting yourself and less time focusing on your loved one because, at the end of the day, he or she is the only one who can seek sustained recovery. He or she has been given the keys to the kingdom, but they keep throwing them away. They will not learn to hold the keys tightly until they understand that they are responsible for their recovery.

Please don’t get sucked into feeling that it is your job to open up your home to a beloved addict or to care for him or her. You cannot change the addict, but you can set healthy boundaries by telling him or her that you will provide support for recovery. Period. Now, this does not mean you cannot leave a sleeping bag and water and some canned goods somewhere outside, but do not allow him or her into your home or heart until they seek recovery. Give the people you love a really compelling reason to change.

Ricki Townsend, BRI-1, CAS, RAS

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