It is very difficult to watch a loved one make destructive choices for themselves, whether it is by abusing drugs and alcohol, engaging in toxic relationships, or even by not taking care of themselves. Our loved ones may or may not be open to the idea that their behavior is causing harm. Even if they are open to the idea, they may not be ready to change their behavior. Here are some suggestions on how to approach such a delicate matter:
- Make sure you are taking care of yourself first. It does not help anyone if you are letting go of your own health and self-care because you are so preoccupied by someone else’s health. If you do, you are ultimately doing just as your loved one is doing — not taking care of oneself.
- Ask your loved one if he/she is open to seeking help. If not, ask whether he or she would be willing to attend a consulting session with you, as the situation is really affecting you.
- Set firm and healthy boundaries with the person. One of the best ways to bring about change in others is by changing the way we interact with them. Let’s say you are financially supporting your son and your son is using part of the money to support his drinking habit. Devise a plan where the financial support is only going towards his healthy habits.
- Search your heart for empathy and understanding. You will need to change many of your own behaviors if you are truly interested in bringing about change in your loved one. You will find that changing your own behavior will come at a cost and will most likely be challenging, because human beings are resistant to change. Use this to help build empathy and understanding for your loved one. Imagine how difficult it must be for them to make changes. Approaching the situation with empathy and understanding could drastically impact the outcome of what you are trying to achieve.
- Consult with a professional.
About the author: Dr. Seda Gragossian is the Clinical Director at the Talk Therapy Psychology Center in San Diego, where she helps people work through mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, and addiction.