Last week, the media seized on the story that Nick Stahl – an actor known mainly for his role as John Connor in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines – was missing. His history of drug abuse immediately raised suspicion among his family that his disappearance was linked to a relapse. This theory was confirmed by his wife late last week, when she told the media that Nick sent an “unemotional and unapologetic e-mail” to friends stating that he’d checked into rehab. She followed the statement up by saying that it’s “now time to focus back on healing.”
Anyone who has watched and helped a loved one fight through addiction knows she wasn’t just speaking about Nick’s healing – she was also referencing the healing process she’ll need to endure during her husband’s road to recovery. Being supportive of a loved one’s addiction struggles and recovery while also coping with your own mixed feelings – anger, hurt, frustration, love, empathy and compassion – is one of the most difficult positions a person can be in. Below are a few steps that you can take to not only help your loved one recover from addiction, but also put yourself on the path to healing and repairing your relationship with him or her.
• Understand that addiction is an illness. It is difficult for many of us who can easily stop drinking after two glasses of wine or don’t feeling cravings for the highs experienced from drugs to understand why a loved one doesn’t have the same control. Until you understand the complex reasons behind addiction – specifically, your loved one’s specific addiction – it will be difficult to adequately support him or her, and you will experience blocks to your own recovery.
• Seek out your own support. Much like an addict must go through rehab, it is important for you to find support to deal with your own emotions throughout the process. Unity holds family support groups and entering programs like Nar-Anon and Al-Anon can help you connect with others going through similar situations with loved ones, as well as teach you how to appropriately communicate your feelings to your addicted loved one.
• Support, but don’t enable. When someone we love is struggling, our natural inclination is to help. Listening, assisting with treatment and helping someone get back on his or her feet are appropriate support mechanisms, however, ensure that you don’t cross the line into enabling an addict’s behavior. It will only impede recovery for both of you.
• Communicate to rebuild trust. It is often difficult to trust an addict going through and immediately after rehab due to baggage related to past behavior. Keep the lines of communication open with your loved one –and avoid using non-accusatory language – to discuss your feelings, fears and expectations during this difficult time for both of you.