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.
Get Help For Yourself First
Being in a relationship with a person who has an addiction is often stressful. It’s important that you accept that what you are going through is difficult and seek support. You also need to develop stress management strategies, which is an important step in helping your loved one as well as yourself.
The Relationship Between Drug Addiction And Family Members
When a family is trying to cope with a loved one who is struggling with an addiction, they tend to experience intense and conflicting emotions that can take a significant toll on even the strongest of relationships. The addicts family understands that their loved one isnt trying to cause problems or hurt them intentionally. This empathy makes them want to provide him or her with support, love, and encouragement.
On the other hand, the manipulation, deceit, and other forms of emotional abuse that the addict throws their way daily is a cause of pain and frustration in the family. As a result, these negative emotions manifest themselves in unhealthy ways and may cause a strain in family ties.
The following are some of the most serious ways in which substance abuse affects the family.
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Resources For Family And Friends
Before you can help someone else, you need to take care of yourself. Helping someone can be mentally, physically and emotionally draining. Be hopeful, dont give up. Seek help and support.
There are online resources available, as well as national and local organizations that can help you help a friend or family member in need.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction has up-to-date information about drugs in Canada that can help inform conversations you may have.
Domestic And Sexual Abuse Are Linked To Substance Abuse
Another connection between drug abuse and family relationships involves various types of abuse and trauma. There is an unfortunate and tragic cycle that includes substance abuse, sexual abuse/rape, and domestic/child abuse. Several studies have found that a large percentage of child abuse and domestic abuse cases involve the use of drugs or alcohol. Other studies have found that individuals who were victims of abuse were more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. This means children of substance abusing parents are more likely to experience some sort of domestic or sexual abuse leading to trauma, which will then make them more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol themselves. If they have children as well, the cycle has a strong chance of continuing. If your family falls into this category, our domestic violence and addiction treatment may be able to help.
As many as two-thirds of all people in treatment for drug abuse report that they were physically, sexually, or emotionally abused as a child.
The effects of addiction on family members can change drastically when abuse is involved. A person who experiences or witnesses abuse, sexual assault, or rape has a high likelihood of struggling with symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome and/or depression. Both conditions often lead individuals to use drugs or alcohol as a means to cope. This pattern then potentially leads to the development of tolerance and then full-blown addiction.
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Children Of Alcoholics And Drug Addicts
Drug addiction and family dynamics are closely tied, but among all of the victims of substance abuse, perhaps no one suffers as much as children. The effects of drug abuse on family members, specifically for children of addicted parents, can be felt long after childhood and well into adulthood. Parental alcoholism and drug addiction can create poor self-image, loneliness, guilt, anxiety, feelings of helplessness, fear of abandonment, and chronic depression in children.4 Maternal substance abuse during pregnancy can also lead to a host of behavioral and developmental disorders in children.5
One in five adult Americans lived with an alcoholic relative at some point during their childhoods. Overall, these individuals are at a greater risk for behavioral and emotional problems when compared to children of non-alcoholics as these toxic alcoholic family roles form. Children who have alcoholic family members are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than individuals not raised by alcoholics. They are also more likely to have difficulty dealing with stress and highly likely to marry an alcoholic or abusive spouse later in life.6
Find Family Addiction Treatment At Discovery Institute
Do you have a loved one who is battling addiction? For over 40 years, The Discovery Institute has been helping families in New Jersey and beyond to make successful recoveries from addictions. Let us help you find the best treatment for you and your family members. Contact us today to learn more, and well connect you to one of our licensed representatives. Its time to get your family back to a healthy place.
Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD
Dr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.
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Get Educated About Addiction
Take the time to learn more about the nature and behavior of drug addiction.
Addiction is much more than substance abuse of things like cocaine, alcohol, marijuana, or prescription drugs. it can be a behavior that is usually due to some underlying emotional issue, chemical imbalance, or other disorder that causes a person to act a certain way or to self-medicate.
People with such behaviors can be addicted to just about anything in an unhealthy way whether it is sex, exercise, work, eating, or a substance. And when someone is addicted to something, there are often co-occurring disorders at play such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, obsessive-compulsiveness, or eating disorders.
Once a person becomes addicted to a substance or behavior, the continuing use and abuse are more about homeostasis rather than getting high. As time goes on, the perceived benefits of that behavior or substance that originally lured them in usually fade away, but the need and impulse remain.
Treatment programs like drug rehab work to treat the underlying causes of addictive behaviors. That is why drug rehabilitation can be so instrumental in causing life-altering behaviors and constructive, positive changes.
What Resources Are Available To Help Support Family Members
The actions of someone dealing with substance abuse can be extremely hurtful emotionally, financially, professionally, and spiritually. This is especially true when their actions appear deliberate. Even when an addict isnt actively causing family members pain, just taking care of their needs can drain relatives to their core. Many family members find that they need help to cope. Luckily, there are many resources out there to help relatives of addicts get the aid they need. If relatives of addicts dont take care of themselves, they will not have enough left in the tank to successfully support a family member in recovery.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Facility-sponsored groups
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Know What You Are Talking About
It is not enough to tell your family member that you think he or she needs help. Chances are he or she has already been told this. It is most beneficial and effective when you are educated on the disease of addiction and what treatment options are available for your family member. It might seem like a daunting task to gather all that info on your own, but it is fairly simple. To begin getting informed about addiction and treatment options, you can:
- Go online and read information provided by reputable resources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , and the National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Attend local Al-Anon meetings and similar support groups to connect with others who have been in your shoes and who can offer guidance
When you arm yourself by taking care of yourself, leading with empathy, and obtaining an education on addiction and treatment options, you are allowing yourself the ability to affect real change in your loved ones life. And while for many people, this does help their loved ones get into treatment, it might not work for you. Every single person who is addicted to drugs and alcohol is different from the next. So, while more conservative approaches like those listed above might be effective for some, others might need a more aggressive take, such as an intervention.
Stop Enabling The Addicted Person
When you care about someone who is addicted, you will find yourself saying yes to all sorts of ridiculous requests. You have to learn how to say no. As long as someone with an addiction problem has someone in their life that continues to bail them out of situations they have created for themselves, they will never recover.
If you are doing things that allow the addicted person to continue in their quest to drink more booze or take more drugs, you are enabling that persons behavior. Family members or friends of an addicted person have the most sincere desire to help, but end up becoming chief enablers.
Lending money, listening to the person moan about the situations they keep creating for themselves, buying them drugs or giving them alcohol, giving them rides to buy drugs or alcohol, bailing them out of jail and assisting with legal problems related to the addiction are all examples of enabling behavior. A solid, loving no is the best gift you can give someone in the grip of addiction or alcoholism.
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Finding The Right Treatment Program
Addiction recovery usually includes three steps: detox, rehabilitation, and aftercare. Detox is a medical service that helps remove all addictive substances from the body and controls withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the substance that is being abused, the severity of the addiction, and the underlying physical and mental health of the user, detoxing can be dangerous and should not be done without medical supervision.
Once detox is completed, the therapeutic elements of recovery can begin. Detox eliminates addictive substances and helps with some of ones physical issues, but it does not address the psychological components of addiction. Therefore, therapy works to create mental and behavioral changes that will stop ones desire to keep using drugs. These changes come from addressing the psychological and emotional issues that are leaving the individual vulnerable to continuing to use. When these issues are addressed, it becomes easier to abstain from using and to focus on maintaining recovery.
While this is the general breakdown of many treatment programs throughout the country, there are programs that are designed to help those with more specific needs. Being sure to find a program that fits with the needs of your loved one is critical to his or her success, so it is important to have a professional identify what his or her needs are. Knowing what your loved one is going to require will help you find the most appropriate recovery program.
Family Therapy In Addiction Treatment
In a substance use disorder treatment program, family therapy is used to leverage the strengths and resources of the family unit to encourage abstinence from drugs and alcohol. It also functions to heal the damage that addiction has inflicted on the family. Family therapy sessions treat the family unit, and/or the patient as an integral part of the family unit. The therapist works with the patient and family members to solve problems and improve communication. At times, counselors may wish to work privately with family members, without the patients presence, to better focus on that individual or individuals needs.
Substance use disorder treatment seeks to aid the recovery of the patient, and family therapy seeks to aid the recovery of all family members. Family therapy should always be part of addiction treatment, as changes made by one member will impact the rest of the family, for better or worse. These interdependent relationships can serve the patient and their loved ones in both positive and negative ways, therefore family therapy should offer a means to rid the family of negative, codependent roles, to create positive change for the whole family.
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Being Married To A Drug Addict
Drug addiction and family relationships do not mix well, but being married to an addict may be even more difficult. Especially in relationships where only one partner has a substance abuse problem, alcohol and drugs can ruin a marriage or long-term relationship. Alcoholism has been linked to higher divorce rates, and one partners addiction can lead to the other partner having to shoulder an unfair share of the household responsibilities.7
When both spouses are equally addicted to drugs or alcohol, it may not increase the chance for divorce, but the households atmosphere will become much more toxic as a result.8 One sober partner can at least try to keep the house in order and encourage the substance abuser to get help. A relationship with two addicts allows each partner to feed off of and enable the other. Addiction will likely lead to the slow deterioration of the relationship, as both addicts will be primarily focused on feeding their addictions rather than cultivating the relationship or handling any household responsibilities.
What Can Family Members Do To Stop Enabling But Empower Their Loved One To Seek Treatment Instead
Family members often realize they need to stop engaging in enabling behavior, but they are too afraid to do so. Unfortunately, drug and alcohol addiction can make an otherwise gentle person irrationally angry, and they may lash out at family members or friends in abusive ways when they stop trying to enable the addict.
Its vital that family members weigh the pros and cons associated with helping an addicted loved one through enabling behavior. They should ask themselves if cleaning up after the addict one more time will help them in the long run, or prevent them from seeking treatment?
Its crucial that family members have outside support in place when they attempt to stop enabling behaviors. Reaching out to a professional addiction interventionist can give them the tools and resources necessary to put safeguards in place and help their loved one realize that the drug or alcohol abuse needs to stop.
Some of the ways family and friends can stop enabling their addicted loved one is to:
- Stop cleaning up after the loved one. That includes giving them money or paying off their legal fees.
- Take back their autonomy. Addicts often put family members in situations that can be dangerous for everyone involved. Family and friends need to find practical ways to prevent the addict from continuing to involve others in these types of potentially hazardous situations.
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Family Help For Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander People
The Department of Health and Human Services funds Aboriginal alcohol and drug workers in some Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations, Aboriginal community-controlled organisations and some mainstream alcohol and drug services across Victoria. The role of these specific Aboriginal alcohol and drug workers is to work in a culturally informed way with Aboriginal people and families to address problematic alcohol and drug use.
For information about accessing Aboriginal-specific services, call DirectLine on or speak with your local Aboriginal community-controlled organisation.
Talk To The Addicted Person About The Situation
If you think someone you care about has a problem with substance abuse, you should talk to them one-on-one first. Explain that you are concerned they may be a drug addict or alcoholic. Ask them to take a quiz to help them determine if they have a problem.
If they come to the realization that they have a substance abuse problem and they are willing to admit it, ask them if they think they need to go for in-patient rehabilitation. If the person is not ready to consider inpatient treatment, ask them if they would be willing to go to an outpatient program. Have information ready about nearby inpatient and outpatient programs that you can present to the person.
If you express concern and the person reacts with denial, anger, or hostility tell them that you are concerned for their life and that you will be taking additional steps to see that they get the help they need.
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