Take Care Of Yourself First
Having significant problems with substance use is a chronic illness. It not only affects the person who is using, but everyone close to them. Family and friends often place the needs of their loved one above their own. That results in a lack of self-care, increased illness and sometimes struggles with depression and anxiety. Taking care of your own physical, emotional, spiritual and mental needs will leave you better able to help your loved one through the difficult journey of recovery.
Tips For Living With A Person In Recovery From Addiction
Once your loved one has left rehab or stopped doing drugs for a significant period of time, theyre considered a person in recovery. This means theyre still vulnerable to relapses, so its important to continue offering support and building trust so your loved one can come to you if they feel the urge to use substances again.
It can take time to trust a loved one again, especially if theyve lied, exhibited harmful behaviors, or stolen from you. You may need to work with a therapist to help you both reestablish the much-needed trust your relationship needs to thrive.
Also, dont be afraid to directly ask your loved one how theyre doing in the recovery phase. Asking them about any possible urges can help them talk out their feelings rather than giving into their impulses.
What To Expect When Your Family Member Enters Treatment
Part of learning how to help an alcoholic loved one is knowing what treatments are available. Another part you may not have considered is what you can expect once they begin treatment. You may end up experiencing the gamut of emotions, all of which are normal, such as:
- Relief: You may be glad your loved one is finally getting treatment and comforted to know that your loved one is physically in a safe space.
- Anxiety: You may worry about the well-being of your loved one and whether theyre getting the help they need.
- Anger: You may feel resentment that your loved one seemingly burdened you with their disease.
- Sadness: Feeling bad for your loved one and their struggles is a sign of empathy and compassion. Sadness doesnt necessarily mean pity, either.
- Shame: You may feel either shame stemming from the guilt that you couldnt save your loved one or embarrassment at having to explain that your loved one is in Recovery.
When your loved one enters treatment, its the perfect time for you to focus more on yourself and your healing. Reach out to support groups of people who are in the same situation as you. If you find yourself blaming your loved one for their addiction and its impact on your life, speak to a therapist to work through those feelings healthily.
Eventually, you will be asked to become involved in your loved ones Recovery. Family involvement in rehabilitation has proven to be incredibly beneficial for both the patient as well as the family.
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Tip #: Get Counseling
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It may be helpful to get some individual counseling to assist yourself. Counseling isnt just for the addict. The more you are able to manage the better you will be able to help your loved one. There are a variety of resources to find counselors. Your company may have an Employee Assistance Program or your health insurance may have mental health benefits that you can access. Talk to someone you trust about finding the resources you need and do a search for resources in your area.
Tips For Finding The Best Drug Addiction Treatment For You
Remember that no treatment works for everyone. Everyones needs are different. Whether you have a problem with illegal or prescription drugs, addiction treatment should be customized to your unique situation. Its important that you find a program that feels right.
Treatment should address more than just your drug abuse. Addiction affects your whole life, including your relationships, career, health, and psychological well-being. Treatment success depends on developing a new way of living and addressing the reasons why you turned to drugs in the first place. For example, your drug dependency may have developed from a desire to manage pain or to cope with stress, in which case youll need to find a healthier way to relieve pain or to handle stressful situations.
Commitment and follow-through are key. Drug addiction treatment is not a quick and easy process. In general, the longer and more intense the drug use, the longer and more intense the treatment youll need. And in all cases, long-term follow-up care is crucial to recovery.
There are many places to turn for help. Not everybody requires medically supervised detox or an extended stint in rehab. The care you need depends on a variety of factors, including your age, drug-use history, medical or psychiatric conditions. In addition to doctors and psychologists, many clergy members, social workers, and counselors offer addiction treatment services.
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Admit There Is A Problem
First things first, you must admit you have an addiction.
If you are feeling discomfort or guilt from your actions, or if your bad habits conflict or restrict your everyday activities, its time to consider help.
Dr. Elizabeth Hartney, PhD agrees, There are many factors, physical, mental, and emotional, that make quitting difficult.
This is why so many people find treatment helps to guide them through the complex process of quitting.
What Should You Do In An Emergency
Does your loved one have any of the following symptoms? If so, call 911 or other emergency services immediately.
- Lost consciousness after taking drugs.
- Became unconscious after drinking alcohol, especially if five or more drinks were consumed in a short period of time.
- Had a seizure.
- Had been drinking and is seriously considering suicide.
- Has a history of heavy drinking and has severe withdrawal symptoms, such as confusion and severe trembling. Severe withdrawal symptoms, such as delirium tremens , can cause death.
Contact the helpline
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Dont Ignore The Problem
No one ever imagines that addiction will happen to someone they know. So, when it does, it can be very difficult to accept. You may be tempted to ignore the signs of addiction, to make excuses for your loved one, or to deescalate the severity of their addiction. But trying to convince yourself that its not that bad, or that theyre simply going through a tough time or phase that theyll snap out of is not doing your loved one any favors. Remember, addiction is a progressive disease, and your loved one will only get worse the more they use or drink.
Things You Need To Do When Your Spouse Is Addicted
Some of the most complicated relationships in life can be those we actually choose: the people we date, the people we live with, the people we marry, the people we have children with. Unlike our relationships with parents or siblings or cousins and so on we actually seek out and are selective about those with whom we are romantic. Somehow, however, those relationships can take the most work.
One factor that can throw the biggest loop in a marriage or long-term relationships is drug or alcohol addiction.
Addiction In A Marriage
Anyone who has been married or in a committed relationship with a person who is addicted knows, without a doubt, that addiction is destructive. In some committed relationships, addiction isnt something that comes up right away. Addiction in a marriage:
- May not be apparent at the beginning of the relationship
- May seem like normal drinking behaviors early in the relationship
- May develop after a short time together
- May develop after years together
- May have been there all along
- May have been hidden from you by your partner
In a marriage, the drug of choice may vary alcohol, illicit drugs such as heroin or cocaine, or prescription drugs like Xanax or OxyContin. Regardless of the drug or drink a person is addicted to, the pursuit of the substance can eventually come before all else. When a person is addicted, he or she will choose drugs or alcohol before their marriage, before their partner, before their children before anything.
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Symptoms Of Drug Abuse
There are many signs both physical and behavioral that indicate drug use. Each drug has its own unique manifestations, and symptoms of abuse vary from drug to drug. However, some general signs that your loved one may be addicted to drugs include:
- Sudden change in behavior
- Problems at school or work
- Lack of energy or motivation
- Becoming careless about personal grooming
- Loss of interest in hobbies, sports and other favorite activities
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Sudden requests for money or a spike in spending habits
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use or addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Contact us today to learn more about addiction treatment programs that can work well for your needs.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.
Dont: Enable Your Loved One
There can be a fine line between helping someone with an addiction and enabling them. Sometimes when we think were protecting a loved one from the consequences of their addiction, we are actually enabling them to continue with potentially destructive behavior.
For example, if youre trying to figure out how to help an alcoholic, keeping them from drinking and driving is helpful, since that could put them and others in danger. However, consistently offering to drive them home whenever they get too intoxicated is enabling their actions, because its setting up a formula in which you are constantly available to rescue them.
Studies show that people with addictions are more likely to proactively seek treatment when they are forced to face the consequences of their actions. So, if you want to know how to help someone with an addiction, allow them to make mistakes without the promise of your rescue.
Its important to set up boundaries and rules, both for your well-being and the well-being of your loved one and its important to enforce those rules and boundaries. This is the only part of Recovery in which tough love is beneficial, since its done for both you and your loved ones protection.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Drug Addiction
People who are addicted to drugs tend to show signs of the disease in every aspect of their lives. The symptoms of addiction are varied, but common signs of a problem with substance abuse include:3,4
- Needing to use drugs to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
- Needing more drugs to get the effects .
- Continuing use of drugs even with the awareness of the harm it causes.
- Neglecting family obligations and financial issues.
- Continuing to use drugs or alcohol despite declining physical health.
- Losing interest in hobbies.
- Changes in eating habits .
How Addiction Changes A Persons Personality
Addictive drugs all share one powerful ability: they interfere with the brains chemical processes, particularly those that involve dopamine. Dopamine is one of the bodys feel good chemicals as well as an essential neurotransmitter chemical. It plays a pivotal role in regulating the brains reward center, limbic system , and cognitive functions. All of these areas work together to form your belief systems, priorities, motivations, and behaviors.
When dopamine levels rise, the reward center remembers the conditions, such as what you were doing or where you were, that prompted the increase in dopamine. When repeated often enough, this area of the brain learns to seek out these same conditions. The other areas affected by dopamine work in tandem with the reward center. By the time addiction takes hold, drug use has become a vital need in the mind of the addict.
Personality changes develop as drugs take on more importance in the addicts life. Where once career and family held top priority, experiencing the drug high becomes more important than everything else. In order to protect this aspect of their lives, someone whos addicted will engage in behaviors they otherwise wouldnt do.
When youre dealing with a drug addict, expect to encounter one or more of the following behaviors:
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Relapse Does Not Equal Failure
Lets say that again: relapse does not equal failure. We hope to never relapse. We hope our loved ones never relapse. But the fact is, it does happen to some. And if it does happen, it is important to remember that relapse does not mean you are a failure even if it feels like it. Just be sure to take steps immediately to get back on track with your recovery.
Getting Help For Addictions
Addiction is a treatable condition. Whatever the addiction, there are lots of ways you can seek help. You could see your GP for advice or contact an organisation that specialises in helping people with addictions.
You can use the following online directories to find addiction treatment services in your area:
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Taking Care Of Yourself
Your loved ones recovery from drug addiction can be a long process and the negative impact on your own health, outlook, and well-being can multiply over time. Its important you maintain a balance in your life to avoid burnout from all the stress and frustration that comes from helping someone get clean.
Find support. Expressing what youre going through can be very cathartic, so look for support from trusted friends and family, or a peer support group for family members of drug addicts. Talking to others who are facing similar challenges can help you find comfort, reassurance, and new ways of coping.
Manage stress. The stress of witnessing someone you love battle addiction can take a heavy toll. You can reduce your stress levels by eating right, exercising regularly, sleeping well, and practicing a relaxation technique such as yoga, deep breathing, or meditation. Since stress levels can escalate when quitting drugs, you can even encourage your loved one to do the same.
Helplines and support
Support for sufferers of substance use disorders
In the U.S.: Call the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-4357.
Canada: Download the PDF Finding Quality Addiction Care from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.
Australia: Find support or call the Alcohol and Drug Foundation helpline at 1800 250 015.
Support for families and loved ones
Group and 12-step programs for your loved one
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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What Its Like Loving An Addict
First, when you love an addict, you have to understand that their addiction takes precedence over everything else, including you. People can start to take it personally, and it understandably hurts them deeply to feel as if the addict they love only cares about the drugs or alcohol, but the addicts brain is driving them toward placing the substance at the top of their priority list.
No matter what an addict says or promises, they are only driven by their desire to continue using, and theres not much of anything you can do to change that.
Also when you love an addict, they are going to lie, cheat and steal to get what they want, which is more drugs or alcohol. They can be charming and manipulative when it serves their purposes, and as the loved one of an addict, its essential that you understand that it is nothing more than just that: manipulation.
When you love an addict, you may constantly feel that youre on edge, or worried when that dreaded phone call is going to come.
So what can you do when you love an addict?
Theres very little you can do, and you certainly cant fix the person. Addiction is a complex disease, and theres no amount of threatening or begging thats going to eliminate the problem. Instead, one of the best things you can do when you love an addict is making sure youre not enabling them.
What happens if that doesnt work though? When is it time to give up, and how can you let go of an addict you love?
Analyze Where You Are
Its coming down to the wire. If all previous attempts have failed, our number one solution will be the last ditch effort to getting your loved one off of drugs, and giving them the health and attention they need to recover. By taking a step back and looking at the last few weeks or months of events, youll be able to better determine if your efforts are proving useful or if you need to take one more stab at this.
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