We are glad you have found our website and are hearing the news that there is hope for addicted internet and technology users. If you are close to an internet and technology addict, you are likely already aware of the difficulty and pain that this condition can cause, not only for the addict themselves, but for those around them as well. Addiction is a serious problem that is harmful to everyone it touches. This page describes important things to know if you are close to an addict, and additional resources can be found at these links:
First, no one is responsible for someone else’s compulsive internet and technology use. As the Al-Anon slogan goes, “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.”
You didn’t cause it. Some people partly blame themselves for the dysfunctional behavior of their family members, particularly with addicts who are very quick to shift responsibility off themselves and blame others. Perhaps you shared online past times with your loved one, purchased them a computer or smart phone, or encouraged their activities, thinking it was a harmless leisure activity. Maybe you’ve been involved in some conflict and wonder if that has driven them to hide away in the internet. But no one is responsible for another person’s behavior or mental disorders.
You can’t control it. You may have already tried to talk to your friend or family member. Perhaps you have bargained with them, or given ultimatums. You have tried to help them see what damage they are doing to themselves and others. And none of it has worked. This is baffling to you. Why don’t they seem to understand or care? Why can’t they see what is obvious to you? This is actually a symptom of the disease of addiction, one that destines efforts for control to failure.
You can’t cure it. We all would like to believe that we have the ability to help those we love. We often think that if we can just get the right information, figure out the right thing to say or do, perhaps change something about ourselves, we can fix the problem. People should be able to solve their own problems. Why can’t we do that with this one? There is a simple reason. There is no cure for addiction. It requires treatment. The recovery process is long and difficult. And there is only one person who can start that process: the one who is using the internet and technology compulsively.
There are things you can do. Here are some suggestions that you may want to consider, that other family members and friends have found helpful.
- Get information. The literature of recovery fellowships for family and friends of addicts (such as Al-Anon) has much helpful guidance, some of which is available online as well. There are people who have been in situations very similar to yours, who have learned much from them, and who are willing to share the lessons learned, their experience, strength and hope. We hope you avail yourself of such resources.
- Detach with love. Putting energy into arguing with someone who is using internet and technology compulsively will not help either of you. Your loved one has a serious problem that you are powerless to control or cure, and that they will not get help until they want it. As much as you love someone, you cannot force this process on another person.
- Stop enabling. Paradoxically, at the same time people are arguing with, bargaining with or shaming a compulsive internet and technology user, they are often (perhaps without realizing it) supporting the addiction in many ways. Anything that shields an addict from the consequences of his or her behavior is enabling, and can include such basic things as providing food, shelter, money, companionship, housekeeping, and covering for employment and legal difficulties. Helping a compulsive internet and technology user keep up an appearance of normalcy is helping him or her continue in the destructive behavior. While you cannot change him or her, you can make changes for yourself. You can shift your energy away from enabling behaviors and toward meeting your own needs.
- Take care of yourself. Whether or not your loved one ever stops using the internet and technology addictively, you deserve to have a healthy and happy life. Once you have accepted that you are powerless over their internet and technology behavior, you can begin to focus on what you can do for yourself, to accomplish your own goals. With the help of others who have been where you are, you can learn to set healthy boundaries and stick to them.
Finally, here are some additional resources for family and friends of internet and technology addicts:
Meetings for family and friends
Family disease concept and codependency
Helpful existing fellowships and resources