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What To Do If You Love Someone With Addiction Issues
Addiction is a complex disease. Attempting to help someone with an addiction issue is also complex. Many times all the energy and focus is on the person who needs help with addiction. Trying to figure out what will make them change, seek help, or just stop their self-destructive ways. However, taking care of oneself can be one of the best things you can do to help. This may seem counterintuitive, but it is often the very thing you need to do. The hard truth is that you cannot change anyone but yourself. Taking an honest look at yourself and what you can do to take care of yourself is vital.
Addiction is a family disease and every member of the family is impacted to one degree or another. Family isnt limited to people to whom you are biologically related. If you have a relationshipromantic or otherwisewith someone who has a SUD or AUD you too are affected by their disease.
One of the first things you can do to help them is to help yourself. Its like the analogy so often told about being on an airplane. You must first put the oxygen mask on yourself then on your child. The same is true when it comes to loving someone with an addiction issue. If you take care of yourself, you will be a better support and most suited to help themeven though the help may not be what you are used to doing.
Be Patient With Them Dont Be Judgmental Or Critical
It is necessary to be patient with them throughout the entire process. By being supportive, not judgmental or critical, you are helping to set the foundation for a successful recovery journey.
This will help you be in a friendly environment with them even conveniently.
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Dont Accept Or Make Excuses For Their Substance Abuse
Many family members and loved ones of someone with addiction eventually find themselves in a place where they have to lie or hide their loved ones substance abuse from others. This is something people can often do under the guise of protecting their loved ones from legal, personal, or other consequences.
Although you may wish to protect this person from further harm, accepting their excuses for abusing drugs and alcohol or making excuses for it yourself gives them the opportunity to continue engaging in these behaviors.
Covering up your loved ones substance abuse whether that means calling in sick for them at work or supporting them financially further normalizes their addiction. Resisting these actions can help both you and your loved one face the reality of their addiction and its many harms.
Explore Treatment Options For Drug Addiction
The person in your life who is struggling with drug addiction might be waiting for someone to have the courage to reach out and help them. Before you have that conversation, it may be helpful to gather information about different treatment options.
Reputable drug rehab centers create individualized treatment programs that guide people through the recovery process. These programs often include family support through therapy and education on how to care for loved ones as they overcome addiction. Aftercare plans may work with family members to create a safe home environment that encourages substance-free living.
If youd like to learn more about treatment options and how to help your loved one with addiction, our specialists are always available.
This page does not provide medical advice.
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Dont: Violate Their Privacy
In taking care of yourself and attending therapy, you may be tempted to vent about your loved one with an addiction. While you should be as honest about your feelings as possible when getting therapy, its important to respect their privacy. This is especially relevant when discussing someone with addiction with friends or family.
Make sure the person is okay being talked about and having their struggles discussed. If you attend counseling with your loved one, make sure you dont reveal what was said in session to others. If your loved one attends therapy or counseling on their own and dont want to discuss what they talked about in session, respect that and dont push them for details.
The Benefits Of Compassion
Compassion for others has been found to be deeply rooted in human nature it has a biological basis in the brain and body. It seems that we are wired to respond to others in need. In fact, helping others brings the same pleasure we get from the gratification of personal desire. In addition, it has been found that when young children and adults feel compassion for others, this emotion is reflected in very real physiological changes. Their heart rate goes down from baseline levels, which prepares them not to fight or flee but to approach and soothe. In other words, science is now telling us that having compassion for others is actually good for us.
In the last 30 years, we have seen the science of psychology and studies of the human brain begin to put compassion, caring, and prosocial behavior center stage in the development of well-being, mental health, and our capacity to foster harmonious relationships with each other and the world we live in.
In recent years, in particular, the work of many researchers has revealed, among other insights, that kindness, support, encouragement, and compassion from others have a huge impact on how our brains, bodies, and general sense of well-being develop. Love and kindness, especially in early life, even affect how some of our genes are expressed .
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How To Help A Loved One Struggling With Addiction
The best ways to help a person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol may seem counterintuitive, especially for people who struggle with codependent relationships. Some of these methods may seem harsh, but they come from a loving approach with the ultimate goal to help the person overcome their addiction and to help all parties heal. Basic steps are outlined below.
- Remember that addiction is not a choice or a moral failing it is a disease of the brain
- Addiction is ultimately a condition that the individual must learn to manage no one can take the fight on for the addict.
- Set boundaries and stand by them.
- Encourage the individual to seek help this may include finding treatment resources for them.
- Find a therapist who specializes in addiction counseling and get help. Loved ones of addicts need support too.
- Set an example for healthy living by giving up recreational drug and alcohol use.
- Be supportive, but do not cover for problems created by substance abuse. The person struggling needs to deal with the consequences of their addiction.
- Be optimistic. A person struggling with drug or alcohol abuse will likely eventually seek help due to ongoing encouragement to do so. If they relapse, it is not a sign of failure relapse is often part of the overall recovery process.
Keep Their Addiction In Perspective
Keeping things in perspective in the grand scheme of things will help you from feeling enveloped in their addiction. While their drug abuse may feel like the worst thing that could ever happen, you need to remind yourself that things will get better. Seeing this from you, the addict you love may be able to find hope that things will get better for them, too.
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Realize Theres A Lot About Substance Abuse To Learn
Having feelings of fear, worry and anger is understandable and normal. As with any other chronic illness, the more informed you are the better you will be able to support your loved one. You can help them, and yourself, by educating yourself. Learn more about substance use disorder, interventions, treatment methods and recovery programs. And know that now is not the time to nag, preach or lecture your loved one about what they should have done, how things could have been better or how wrong they are.
Seek professional help on how to approach your loved one about their addiction so they can get treatment for it. Assistance in Recovery is one resource in our community that offers advocates who can help coach you on ways to do this that work. They can also explain the variety of treatment options out there for your loved one many of which include the involvement of family and others who are supportive.
HealthPartners alcohol and substance abuse recovery treatment programs in Minnesota and Wisconsin include:
Approaching And Helping An Addict
Trying to help someone with an addiction can be a long, challenging, and painful process. Unlike someone with a physical health condition, such as cancer, a person with an addiction might not recognize the true danger of their illness or understand the risks of not treating it.
Its important to remember that they are ultimately responsible for their own recovery. Typically, they must first recognize that they have an addictive disorder. Then, they must be ready and willing to address their addiction before their recovery can even begin. Setting realistic expectations and boundaries can help you provide support, while protecting your own well-being.
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Don’t Do This On Your Own
Because an intervention is a complicated and delicate process, friends and family members should not try it on their own. Seek the help of a professional such as a doctor, therapist, or member of the clergy who has experience with the process.
Timing is crucial. It’s best to set up an intervention shortly after an addiction-related problem has occurred and to investigate treatment options in advance.
Bear in mind that interventions can be painful and do not always work. In fact, interventions can backfire, because they can make people with addiction feel alienated from his or her support system. This can further distance them from the help they need. For these reasons, interventions should be considered only as a last resort in response to a desperate situation.
Addiction can be devastating. The good news is that there are a number of effective treatments for addiction, including self-help strategies, psychotherapy, medications, and rehabilitation programs. Get the strategies in the Harvard Special Health Report, Overcoming Addiction: Finding an effective path toward recovery.
Dont Focus On Guilt Or Shame
Someone struggling with addiction is usually already feeling deep guilt, shame and anger about their using. In addition, many feel judged by their family and friends, and will act defensively in response to any criticism that is levelled at them. Rather than helping, if the judgement or moralising does appear, they may turn to using to combat the feelings of stress that this gives them.
It is understandable however, as the person suffering may have already deeply hurt you, broken your trust or angered you. Where there is love left though, it is important to understand that feelings of shame, anger, and judgement can negatively affect your relationship with the person addicted and actively harm their chances of recovery. Research shows that shame is one of the least effective incentives to change, because it is isolating, painful and can make the addicted person believe they are unworthy of love or treatment.
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The Effects Of Drug Abuse And Addiction On Family And Friends
Witnessing someone you care about battle a substance use disorder can be extremely distressing and take a heavy toll on your own mental and emotional well-being. Whether the drug abuser is a close friend, spouse, parent, child, or other family member, its easy for their addiction to take over your life. It can pile stress upon stress, test your patience, strain your bank balance, and leave you racked by feelings of guilt, shame, anger, fear, frustration, and sadness.
You may worry about where your loved one is at any given time, their risk of overdosing, or the damage theyre doing to their health, future, and home life. You may be in debt from paying their living expenses, the cost of legal troubles resulting from their drug abuse, or from failed attempts at rehab and recovery. You may also be worn down by covering for your loved one at home or work, having to shoulder the responsibilities they neglect, or being unable to devote more time to other family, friends, and interests in your life.
As despairing as you may feel, youre not alone in your struggle. A Pew Research Center survey in 2017 found that nearly half of Americans have a family member or close friend whos been addicted to drugs. Across the Western world, the abuse of prescription pain relievers and tranquillizers has skyrocketed in recent years, creating a public health crisis.
How To Talk To An Alcohol Or Drug Addict
There is a misconception that people addicted to drugs or alcohol have to hit rock bottom before seeking help. If you suspect that your loved one has a problem, dont wait to talk to him or her about it. The earlier an addiction is treated, the better.
Although it was once thought that confrontation was the best way to approach a loved one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, current research reveals that confrontation can be counterproductive and can cause the person to become defensive.3
Developed by Dr. Robert J. Meyers, Ph.D., Community Reinforcement and Family Training is an alternative approach to confrontation that teaches concerned family members how to communicate effectively with the addicted person. This program is designed to teach family members strategies that will motivate the substance abuser to seek and enter a recovery program. 4
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Why Supporting A Person With Addiction Can Be Challenging
Many people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol cannot simply stop using. It can be extremely difficult for the person to quit, even if he or she wants to stop. Over time, changes to brain chemistry and altered signaling pathways may occur as a result of chronic drug and alcohol abuse. These brain changes can undermine efforts to quit and ultimately serve to promote continued substance abuse behavior. These neural adaptations also contribute to cravings and drug-seeking behaviors. 2
Keep in mind that your loved ones addiction is not your fault. You can be supportive and helpful, but ultimately the decision to get treatment is up to the individual. Accepting what you can and cannot control is a big part of surviving a loved ones addiction.
Do I Have To Let Someone Hit Bottom
It is a myth that the desperation of hitting rock bottom is the only way to get people to accept the need for changeor believe that they can. Too often, rock bottom is a point at which irreversible damage has occurredcareers, livelihoods, relationships derailed. The problem is that the myth of rock bottom sees people as hopeless, and seeing people as hopeless makes them feel hopeless about themselves. Addiction is not easy to overcome, but the first step on the road to recovery is awareness that it is a possibility.
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How Can You Help Someone Struggling With Addiction
Since every addict is a unique person, there is no perfect checklist that a loved one can follow to help them. However, there are general guidelines that they can follow to do their best and provide the addict with meaningful support.
Some of the actions that a loved one can take to help are:
Without some knowledge on addiction, particularly the stages of addiction, it is easy for a person to underestimate how dangerous an addicts condition is at a given time. They may not even realize the addiction is present, if they do not know the signs to look for. As a result, the first step an individual should take to help someone with an addiction is to simply learn more about the disorder.
When an addict is lost in despair over their condition, it is easy for them to feel as though they are alone and unlovable. Here, it is imperative for close friends and family to remind the addict that they are cared for and have allies in their struggle. Expressing this support is something that an individual can do at any point for the addict, and they should do it frequently rather than waiting for moments of crisis. This ensures the individual knows they are loved no matter how far their substance use disorder progresses.
Encourage them to seek help or stage an intervention
Support recovery as an ongoing process
Take of Yourself