When people call therapist Candace Plattor about someone else's addiction, she usually asks if they would be willing to go into counselling, too.
Plattor, who will be speaking at a free public forum on addiction issues in White Rock later this month, is author of Loving an Addict, Loving Yourself: The Top 10 Survival Tips for Loving Someone with an Addiction.
She says spouses, relatives and friends of addicts also need help, even if they don't want to admit it.
In 16 years of treating people for substance abuse and compulsive behaviors in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Plattor says she regularly received phone calls from stressed-out people seeking help for another person's problems, unaware of how entangled they had become with the other person's dysfunction.
"These loved ones were basically addicted to their addict's addiction," Plattor says.
Plattor says it can be difficult for someone in a relationship with an addict to figure out what is helping and what is making things worse.
By the time they contact a therapist, she says loved ones have often invested a lot of energy, time and money in a frustrating battle to get the other person to change.
"They're really trying to make a difference," Plattor says.
"They are doing the best they can."
But all too often, what they're doing isn't helping.
"It can come as a shock, but I think they know deep down it's not working."
Breaking the addiction to the addict's problems requires recognizing that you can't help another person if they aren't ready to be helped and you are unable to look after your own needs, she says.
"Self care doesn't equal selfishness," Plattor tells clients.
"Live your own best life."
It can be a hard notion to accept when someone is focussed on trying to convince someone to change their self-destructive behavior, she says.
"You can't change anyone else," Plattor warns.
"You have no control over anyone but yourself."
On Wednesday, May 30, Plattor will be speaking at the White Rock Community Centre presentation room at 15154 Russell Ave.
The free 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. presentation is a presentation by Sources counseling and addiction services and the City of Surrey as part of Substance Use Awareness Week (May 27 to June 2).
The Sources counseling and addiction services team will be on hand.
To register for the event, email email@example.com or phone 604-538-2522 ext 233.
For more information about Loving an Addict, Loving Yourself: The Top 10 Survival Tips for Loving Someone with an Addiction visit www.candaceplattor.com