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Forgiving a Loved One with Substance Abuse Disorder

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forgiveness forgive loved one addiction treatmentLearn How to Forgive a Loved One With Substance Use Disorder

Loving someone with a substance use disorder or addiction can be one of the hardest things you ever face in your life. You may feel betrayed, hurt, and angry. You might even feel guilty or responsible for their overindulgence. At times, you may feel hopeless and defeated by the seemingly endless cycle of promises to change followed by relapse. It can also be emotionally and physically draining. If you have ever had to deal with this issue, take comfort in knowing that there are ways to help your loved ones recover and forgive them.


What Is Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorder is a pattern of using drugs or alcohol that causes harm to you or others. Drug use disorder may involve using illicit drugs like heroin or cocaine or prescribed medicines like sedatives and painkillers for non-medicinal purposes. People with substance use disorders cannot control how much and how often they use drugs or drink alcohol. They may feel that they need the drug or drink to function normally.

They may not be able to stop even if it’s causing serious problems with work, school, relationships, health, and other areas of their lives. The disorder can range from mild to severe. People with mild disorders may stop using the substance without help. Those with severe disorders need professional treatment to stop.


What Are the Signs of Substance Use Disorder?

Signs and symptoms of substance use disorders can vary greatly depending on the particular substance involved and other individual factors. However, some common signs and symptoms may indicate a substance use disorder.


Physical signs:

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils appearing larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Deterioration of physical appearance and/or poor grooming habits
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination

Behavioral signs:

  • Drop-in attendance and performance at work or school
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
  • Frequently getting into legal trouble (DUIs, fights, public intoxication)
  • Unusual excitement or hyperactivity

How Substance Use Disorder Impacts Loved Ones 

Substance use disorder is a disease that impacts friends and the entire family, not just the person struggling with the addiction. Loved ones may be negatively affected by their actions, behaviors, and decisions. The following covers some of the negative effects.


They May Lose Interest in Their Family and Friends 

When individuals have a substance use problem, they spend most of their time thinking about obtaining and using drugs. It can become all-consuming, causing them to neglect important relationships and responsibilities. For example, individuals may not show up for work or social events because they are high on drugs or alcohol.


They May Become More Irritable or Aggressive

If you are a loved one of someone with a substance use problem, you may already be aware that they can be moody, irritable, or aggressive when they are under the influence. You may also know that the person may lie to you to get more money for drugs or alcohol. You may also experience emotional abuse by becoming depressed or anxious due to the stress caused by your loved one’s behavior.


Financial Impacts

Individuals in relationships with substance users may experience some form of financial abuse, such as having money stolen from them or missing bills due to their partner spending money on drugs or alcohol. Additionally, even if your loved one has not gone to jail due to their substance use issues, your finances have likely been impacted by their addiction in some way. For instance, you may have had to pay legal fees following an arrest for drunk driving or possession of illegal substances.



Codependency is a term used to describe how people in relationships with someone who has an addiction can become addicted to their loved one’s behavior. While many people think of codependency as being limited to spouses or romantic partners of people with substance use disorders, it can also affect siblings, children, and parents.

Some people dealing with addiction may not realize that their behaviors impact more than just themselves. The spouse, children, parents, and other family members of a person struggling with substance use may find themselves codependent, enabling their loved one to continue using the drugs. The codependent person may also be at risk for developing a substance use disorder themselves.

Other negative emotional impacts include: 

  • Anger at the person abusing substances
  • Embarrassment over their behavior in public situations
  • Shame at being connected to someone with a substance use disorder
  • Resentment at having to carry the burden of their problems
  • Guilt over not being able to convince them to stop using drugs or alcohol
  • Fear for their safety or well-being


How to Forgive Your Loved One

Forgiving a loved one who has a substance use disorder can be challenging, especially if their actions have hurt you. However, forgiveness is an important part of healing for both the person and the loved one. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to forgiving someone with a substance use disorder.

Forgiveness takes time and effort, but the payoff is worth it. When you forgive someone, you release yourself from anger and resentment, which can be toxic emotions that will only cause you to feel more pain and suffering in the long run. Here are some ways to help you learn to forgive your loved one.


Understand What Substance Use Disorder Is and How It Affects the Individual 

When someone is diagnosed with an illness such as cancer or heart disease, they are usually treated with compassion and understanding by their family members and friends. No one expects them to get better all on their own. The same should be true for those struggling with addiction because addiction is a disease.

As a close loved one to the affected person, it is good to understand how the substance use disorder affects the individual. Most people with a substance use disorder cannot simply stop using drugs and alcohol on their own because they are addicted to those substances. Addiction is not just a bad habit; it is a medical condition that changes the brain and causes uncontrollable drug cravings, seeking, and use that persists even in the face of severe negative consequences. Understanding how addiction works can help you realize that your loved one’s behavior isn’t intentional, and they truly cannot help themselves sometimes.


Take Time for Yourself and Live as an Example 

When someone has a substance use disorder, it can consume all of your time as you try to be supportive and available for them. If you don’t take time for yourself, your health and well-being will suffer. You’ll get worn out and resentful.

Make sure you spend time doing things that bring you joy and relaxation, like taking a walk or reading a book. You might also consider getting involved in support groups so that you can talk through your feelings with people who know exactly what you’re going through. You can’t control the addict’s behavior, but you can control your reactions to it. The key is learning to respond appropriately to inappropriate behavior. Take care of your physical health by eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep.


Understand That You’re Not Alone

It’s easy to feel isolated when your loved one has a substance use disorder. You may be afraid of what others think or fear that no one will understand what you’re going through. But many people have been in this situation before. It may help to talk about your experiences with someone who has gone through them, and this may also give you a soft heart to forgive your loved one.

Also, be supportive. You can be there for your loved ones without defending any negative behavior or covering up for them. It can be a fine line to walk as you do not want to enable their addiction or dismiss destructive behavior, but it is important to be supportive during this time. Support comes in many forms, such as watching over them at home and helping them follow a healthy lifestyle.


Think About What Happens If You Don’t Forgive

Remaining angry and resentful will only cause you to feel bad about yourself. And as long as you continue to hold onto these feelings, your relationship with your loved one will suffer. Think about all the times when your loved one has done something for which they deserve forgiveness. Maybe they’ve been there for you in the past, or maybe they’ve apologized in the past and seemed sincere.


Seek Treatment for Them

Another crucial step to forgiving your loved one with a substance use disorder is to seek treatment for them. There are different types of treatment for substance use disorders, and it’s important to find the one that best fits your loved one’s needs. The treatment options available at Granite Recovery Centers include all of the following:

Residential or Inpatient Programs: Residential programs require your loved one to live at the rehab facility throughout treatment. These programs offer 24-hour medical care and intensive therapy. Under this program, clients may also take part in holistic therapy, yoga therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP): These treatment programs allow your loved one to live at home while attending treatments during the day. PHPs typically run from four to six hours per day, Monday through Friday. However, there could be additional program schedules on weekends. 

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP): IOPs are similar to PHPs but usually last fewer hours, about three per day and three days per week. These programs allow your loved one to continue working or attending school while receiving treatment for their addiction. These programs generally offer group therapy, individual therapy, family therapy, and other services like medication management and psychiatric services. They provide more flexibility than inpatient treatment but offer comprehensive care for substance use disorders. 

Relapse Prevention Therapy

We have an evidence-based approach to treatment that has been effective in helping clients overcome substance use disorder. Relapse prevention therapy is one of these proven methods for treating substance use issues. Relapse prevention therapy seeks to help an individual stop abusing drugs or alcohol and teach relapse prevention techniques that can help people avoid a full return to substance use even after they’ve achieved sobriety. The goal of RPT is to help clients gain awareness of their thoughts and behavior patterns and learn how to recognize events and situations that trigger problematic behavior. The therapy explores how these triggers can cause individuals to think or act in ways that may lead to relapse. The philosophy behind RPT is that relapse does not occur suddenly without warning. Rather, it happens gradually and involves four stages: emotional, mental, physical, and behavioral. RPT helps clients identify which stage they are in at any given time.

12-Step Approach 

The 12-step facilitation approach is a method of substance use disorder treatment centered on helping patients cope with their addictions by using the principles of the program. At Granite Recovery Centers, we call this program REST, abbreviated for Recovery Education and Skills Training.

The model suggests that individuals who have lost control over drug use can abstain from these substances with help from a higher power and other recovering clients. The program also suggests that each member of the group should be a sponsor for one another, sharing their own experiences with addiction and recovery as a way to offer support.


Why Is It Important to Forgive Your Loved One?

Forgiving someone is important because it allows both of you to live in the present instead of dwelling on past hurts and disappointments. Forgiveness allows you to let go of the anger and resentment towards your loved one so that you can be more present in their life, even if they haven’t forgiven themselves yet. It also gives you the freedom to focus on yourself instead of focusing on them constantly. It will also allow for healthier relationships with other people in your life because forgiveness helps heal any emotional wounds.

Forgiving a loved one who has a substance use disorder is not only beneficial to your mental and physical health, but it will also help in the healing process. You can visit Granite Recovery Centers for different treatment options for your loved one, or call us today to schedule an appointment.