In millions of households in America each day someone worries about a loved one’s drinking or drugging.

If you are one of those people, you might find that you are walking on eggshells, afraid of saying or doing something to make things worse. Despite numerous promises from your loved one, nothing seems to change.

Secretly, you wonder if it is your fault. If this sounds anything like what you or your family is experiencing, here are a few suggestions:

  • Learn all you can about alcoholism and addiction. Recognize the fact that your loved one might have this life-threatening but highly treatable illness.

Addiction is a disease of the brain, and as the illness progresses, the person simply cannot turn off the brain’s natural desire for the drug.

  • Do not try to talk to your loved one about the use when he or she has been drinking or drugging. Trying to talk to a person who is under the influence is like trying to talk to someone under anesthesia.
  • Ask yourself if there is anything you are doing that is making it easy for the addict’s behavior to continue. Are you giving money, taking on the person’s responsibilities or repeatedly getting him or her out of trouble?

Learn to say no. Addicts in recovery will readily tell you that until they experienced the consequences of their actions, there was no motivation to change.

  • Realize that lying to you and making excuses isn’t personal. It is how an addict protects the use. Underlying all addictions are secrecy and shame.
  • Refuse to accept the blame for a person’s drinking or drugging, even though the addict might tell you it is your fault. Seek out programs for family members such as Al Anon and Nar Anon. In these groups people learn the Three C’s, which are, “I didn’t cause it,” “I can’t control it,” and “I can’t cure it.”
  • Encourage your loved one to talk to a professional who is trained in addiction. The professional can help your loved one sort out what is happening with his or her use and offer suggestions for treatment.

Whether or not the addict follows through, get help for yourself.

  • Try not to be angry or judgmental. Being angry with a person with an addiction is like being angry with someone who has cancer.

Like any illness, addiction is not the addict’s fault. It is, however, his or her responsibility to do something about it.

Mary Bieda, MS, LPC is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Old Town Bluffton.