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The pathway to healing and recovery in Alberta is often a journey that has taken the addicted person and their loved ones through hell and back. Addiction not only involves the individual suffering from the substance use disorder, but their partner, their family, and their friends as well. 

When supporting a partner or family member in Edmonton, Red Deer, or Calgary who is in active addiction to alcohol or other drugs, it’s critically important that you also take care of your own well-being and overall health. It is a balancing act of offering support to your partner (or friend or family member) in navigating the treatment and recovery options available, while at the same time not losing sight of what you need to be happy and healthy. We are here to help you and your loved ones on their journey. It’s not something you need to manage on your own. The sooner an Interventionist or drug and alcohol professional in Alberta gets involved the sooner we can start the treatment process and put an end to the nightmare you and your loved ones are going through.

The disease of drug or alcohol addiction can damage even the most healthy and loving relationships, creating trauma and dysfunction. Addiction and toxic relationships are often linked. Sometimes being in a relationship with a partner or being a parent to a child that has an addiction to alcohol or drugs can not only be emotionally stressful but can even lead to abuse. Substance abuse co-occurring with intimate partner abuse in 40 to 60% of cases, although it can extend to other relationships as well.

Toxic relationships and addiction go hand in hand, creating a vicious cycle. Change comes when the addict/alcoholic or their family and friends put a stop to the toxic influence that addiction has on relationships.

What is a Toxic Relationship?

toxic relationship

Whether with a romantic partner, family member, or friend, toxic relationships involve negative behavior and patterns of control, selfishness, manipulation, and abuse. Toxic relationships can come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, from your spouse or significant other to members of your family or the friends that make up your social circle. Around 84% of women in Alberta have at least one toxic friend that contributes to destructive and self-destructive behaviors. A toxic relationship causes harm to one or both people involved.

10 Ways to Help While Loving an Addict or Alcoholic in Alberta

Here’s how to find balance while supporting the positive health behaviors of your partner, while also taking care of yourself.

1. Acknowledge the Issue

Believe it or not, the first step is trying to help your loved one to get help and recover. We all need to acknowledge that there is indeed an issue. This might seem like an obvious step, but in a country like ours where drug abuse is still associated with social stigma, this becomes a herculean task. Turn your back on those curious relatives and nosy neighbours – this is between you and your loved one. Once you admit that there’s a problem, it’s much easier to find a solution.

Don’t worry about what others would think and feel because your partner or child is experiencing the mental health crisis of addiction. If you are married to an addict in Alberta or in any kind of relationship with an addict, then it is perfectly acceptable to offer support and assure them that you will be there to hold their hand through thick and thin (of course healthy boundaries must be followed but that doesn’t mean you need to give up). Both of you have to acknowledge the fact that the existence of addiction is affecting the relationship, and both of you are going to fix it.

2. Set Boundaries

set boundary

It is important to set ground rules for your relationship, especially when you believe your partner may be developing or actively suffering from a substance use disorder in Alberta. Boundaries are clearly outlined expectations or rules set forth so that both partners know what behaviors are acceptable.

Having boundaries avoids the potential for unwittingly positively reinforcing substance use and can help to avoid feeling constantly frustrated or angry with your family member’s behavior such as feeling angry at being taken advantage of financially, manipulated emotionally, or helpless in the face of the substance use disorder.

Setting boundaries protect your personal health and well-being, is more likely to help your addicted loved one, and can help ensure that you’ll be satisfied with the relationship as well.

Some examples of common boundaries (that can be agreed upon through discussion with your addicted loved one) include.

  • No alcohol and other drugs allowed in the house
  • Not allowed in the house when intoxicated
  • No alcohol or other drug-using friends allowed in the house
  • No personal communication when intoxicated (i.e., no calls, texts, etc.)
  • No asking to borrow things (e.g. money, car, cell phone, etc.)

3. Practice Self-Care

It’s the same concept they tell you during the demo on the airplane. Put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others. Basically, you won’t be able to help your partner if you can’t help yourself. Try to maintain your own self-care routines as much as possible. This will build resiliency.

4. Educate Yourself and Do Your Research 

An important first step in helping your partner is understanding their substance use. Educate yourself on substance use disorders and available resources in Alerta (Edmonton, Red Deer, or Calgary). By doing this, you are not only empowering yourself to make well-informed decisions, but you are also ready and equipped with information when your partner decides they are ready to seek help. 

Some starter research points you can learn about are as follows. 

  • Know the signs of an overdose and enroll in a Narcan (opioid overdose reversal medication) training course if opioids are suspected.
  • Learn about the biological (e.g., substances’ effects on brain changes) and environmental (triggers, peer influences, substance availability, etc.) underpinnings of addiction and the many different and varied pathways to recovery in Alberta or elsewhere.
  • Stay up to date on the latest research in treating addiction and helping people recover.
  • Familiarize yourself with the proper terms and language
  •  (which avoids stigmatizing language) to better communicate and address your partner’s condition in an objective and constructive way.

5. Have discussions

have discussions

Addicts and alcoholics tend to be secretive about these guilty pleasures and often regard questions thrown at them as an interrogation. Thankfully, you have an edge here. So, we suggest you use it to help them understand what they want. How bad is it? Do they want to quit? And if they do, are they prepared to do what’s necessary? Since stressful situations can make them want to resort to drugs, we suggest you comfort them physically throughout the discussion.

6. Get Outside Input

With the shame and stigma that goes along with alcohol or other drug addiction in Alberta, it is easy for affected loved ones to become increasingly secretive and isolated. Seek help and outside advice early and often. Talk to friends, people, and family members in recovery who have the lived experience of what you’re going through, and seek the help of addiction specialists.

When asking for and seeking help, there are several different options available.

  • Professional help is where you should start. This involves trained professionals in addiction who are out there and ready to help right here in Alberta. There are proven methods to help you and your loved one recover. We can also help arrange family therapy, couple therapy, or behavioural therapy, but keep in mind that your partner may not be ready or willing to go. Our Calgary and Edmonton Interventionists can help stage an intervention or simply help you access the help you need to heal. Talking with us can be a useful way to de-stress and talk to someone who can help you better navigate your next steps.
  • Technological Intervention: There has been a rapid growth in online services and support for addiction. Attend peer support meetings online, ask questions in free online forums or download apps with daily meditations onto your phone, or find online services where you can talk to licensed professionals.
  • Peer Support Meetings (AA, Alanon, NA, Naranon, SMART Recovery, and more) all available within Alberta or online.

7. Consider Co-Occurring Disorders

Comorbidity is the occurrence of two or more disorders or illnesses in the same person. The likelihood of a mental illness diagnosis doubles for individuals suffering from a substance use disorder. Your partner or child may be more willing to talk about their depression or anxiety with you or a professional in Alberta than talking directly about their substance use. This can be a way for them to get some kind of help that can ultimately lead to positive changes in their alcohol/drug use.

8. Try Immediate Rewards

Substance use disorders affect biological functioning, dominating the brain’s reward system, affecting emotional regulation, motivation, impulse control, and pleasure-seeking behaviors. The brain and body become dependent on an outside substance to create feelings of happiness and well-being—and, at advanced stages of the disease, to simply maintain the ability to function.

Compulsive behaviors and the need for rapid reward are likely to surface and intensify as the substance use disorder progresses. Even when an individual detoxifies from a substance, the reward system in the brain can remain changed for a long period of time.

New research is suggesting that due to these changes in the brain, immediate rewards may be a more effective means by which to promote early recovery and your partner’s sobriety. Instead of planning long-term incentives such as a vacation the following year, try planning small immediate rewards each day, and around upcoming weekends, for any positive changes (e.g., keeping to a boundary, talking openly about problems, attending a therapy session, etc.).

The immediacy and consistency of positive rewards for any movement in a healthy direction have been shown to shape behavior in addictive individuals that can increase the odds of recovery in Alberta.

9. Be Patient

Expect recovery, but be prepared for relapse. Although some individuals in Alberta achieve a long-term recovery on their first attempt, for others, it may take multiple attempts over multiple years. Keep your hopes up, as substance use disorder is known as a good prognosis disorder in that the majority of people can and do recover and odds are better when professional help is sought.

10. Stay Safe

Sometimes, no matter what you do to support your partner, their substance use has progressed to the point where they are unable to make rational decisions to cease their substance use. It may be necessary to seek legal assistance to save your loved one’s life. Parents and partners can look into laws within their own province, to explore involuntarily sending your partner to detox and treatment in Alberta. We suggest speaking with an Interventionist to see how they can help first. We have Interventionists and Addiction Specialists in Alberta in Calgary, Edmonton, and Red Deer. However you feel like you may be in danger of harm, or feel that your relationship is no longer healthy, it may be necessary to seek an end to the relationship even if just temporary until the person gets help.

Find Help for an Addicted Loved One Today

find help for an addicted loved one

It’s obvious that addiction affects Albertan families in devastating ways. It causes family members to develop specific roles as a way of coping with the turmoil of addiction. That’s why it’s so important to get help for an addicted loved one sooner rather than later. It is never too early to get help. You may think that addiction is only hurting your loved one, but that couldn’t be more wrong. Addiction has the ability to devastate the entire family unit. Instead of allowing substance abuse to progress in your home, contact our addiction specialists and interventionists in Alberta today to see how we can help your family and your loved one.