Help for a Loved One
Many people would argue that struggling with addiction is something that a person goes through alone. However, for the friends and family of a loved one who is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, there is an often-difficult journey as well.
There may be a financial impact with loved ones giving money to the person to obtain their substance of choice and this may cause incredible strain on personal relationships. Additionally, the stability of the home is severely disrupted, and watching someone you love battle addiction can cause feelings of stress, hurt, and anger – often resulting in mental health problems.
However, since addiction is something that families face together, it can be beaten together. But this must be done in the right way if success if to be ensured.
How Can I Help A Loved One?
If you are a friend or loved one of someone who is suffering from an addiction, whether it is drug abuse, alcoholism, or addictive behaviours like internet use or video games, it is essential that you understand how important your role in recovery can be.
Do not believe the myth that addicts need to “hit rock bottom” or “want to help themselves” before they are capable of entering treatment for their problem. Addiction is a debilitating disease and means that its victims gradually become less and less capable of self-realisation and motivation for recovery as time goes on.
If you know someone who is suffering from an addiction, you have two choices:
- Ignore the problem, enabling the continued addictive behaviour, and hope the person seeks to help themselves before it is too late
- Address the issue and put the addicted person into a situation where they are forced to realise that they have a problem and take responsibility for it
Do you know someone who is suffering from an addiction? Call us now for free help and advice on how you can intervene to help your friend or loved one get free of their problem, seek addiction treatment, and set you all on the path to a healthier and happier life.
We also offer advice and guidance on interventions for the friends and families of addicts. This drastic step is designed to induce a situation of “crisis” which will prompt the addict to recognise their illness and realise that they are able to seek help for it.
Remember there is no such thing as a lost cause, and any addiction sufferer, no matter how “far gone” they may appear, can benefit from intervention, advice and treatment to help them address their problems and take a step towards a better life for themselves and their loved ones.
Why Can’t They Just Quit?
It can be easy to expect your loved one to simply stop using the substance, and for anyone who doesn’t have an addiction this might seem like the most sensible thing to do – oftentimes those struggling with addiction want to quit but simply can’t.
Addiction causes significant changes within the brain, causing the person to become dependent on the substance, so no matter how hard they try they simply cannot function without it.
The most important thing that you can do is to let them know that help is available and that you will be there to support them when they are ready to access this.
Drug Or Alcohol Abuse Symptoms
Some signs of addiction may be difficult to spot as they are experienced by the user themselves, this might include feelings of depression or withdrawal when the substance cannot be accessed.
However, there are many external symptoms that you may recognise if your loved one is battling addiction:
- Aggression or irritability
- Being intoxicated more frequently
- A change in the content they post on social media
- Sleep patterns changing – sleeping more, less or appearing overly tired
- Significant changes in weight
- Lack of coordination
- Lying about their substance use
- Not taking care of themselves – bad personal hygiene, not caring about their appearance, neglecting to take medications etc
- Problems with memory
- Problems with school or work – lower grades, loss of employment, being consistently late
Am I Overreacting To A Drug Or Substance Abuse Problem?
If you believe that there is cause for concern or have noticed any of the signs of drug or substance abuse, then it is safe to say that you are not overreacting – addiction is serious and even if it is only suspected, should be taken as such.
For many people, drub or substance use takes over their lives and become their main priority if you have noticed this then it is time to act. In many cases, your loved one may be reluctant to discuss the issue so taking different action may be necessary such as monitoring their use, involving other family members, or getting in touch with a professional.
How To Help A Loved One Struggling With Addiction?
When helping a loved one overcome addiction, it is important to take a hard but fair approach at the same time as letting them know that you are doing this because you love it – this can be difficult but it is also effective. Take a look at the steps below to see how you can help your loved one with their addiction:
One of the most common issues is that your loved one may not agree with you that there is an issue and this can make helping them seem impossible. But there are certain things you can do:
- Keep in mind that addiction is a disease and not a choice
- Whilst you can provide support, you will not be able to cure your loved one - this is something they need to deal with themselves
- Boundaries are very important, you should be clear as to what they are and stand by them no matter how difficult it may be
- Keep working with your loved to encourage them to find help. Locating a counsellor who is trained in addiction is one of the best courses of action
- Lead by example and be sure not to use substances
- Whilst providing support, you must also allow the person to tobe accountable for their actions. You can do this by not covering up for the behaviours and not picking up the pieces for them
- As difficult as it may be, try to remain positive. This will provide further encouragement for your loved one
Whilst an intervention may sometimes be required, this should be the last port of call and the initial discussion about addiction should be calm, quiet and one to one, if possible as this will feel the least threatening to your loved one. There are some other things to keep in mind when striking up a conversation about their problems:
- Try not to place blame or use language to this effect. This may cause the person to withdraw from the conversation
- Do not display anger or resentment, even if you do feel this way. It can be helpful to talk openly and honestly, however
- You might refer to incidents relating to their addiction that have caused you personal upset and let them know how their problems don't just affect them
- Gather as much information on addiction as you can before confronting the person so that you can use this to demonstrate your points as well as giving them support in the right way
- Offer to help them find support but if they are not ready then don't force the issue
- If all else fails, you may need to consider staging an intervention but this should be done with the help of a specialist
When bringing up the subject of their addiction, there are some points to consider, The most important being that you should not initiate a discussion when the person is intoxicated as their heightened emotions and lack of logical thinking may invoke an unwanted reaction. You should also have a discussion when you are sober yourself.
Secondly, you should try to find a time when you can speak to the person without interruption - for example, if it is your partner and you have children, be sure to approach the subject when the children are not present.
Be sure to confirm how much you care about them and that you are worried for their health but make sure that you give them chance to respond to your comments, creating a two-way conversation rather than what might feel like a verbal attack. It is also important to use non-threatening language.
Whilst you may be ready to help your loved one with their problems, they may not be at this point and so it is important to be patient and not to expect a dramatic change from the get-go.
The Difference Between Control And Influence
A person who is battling addiction will likely have no control over their substance use since the brain chemicals are altered as a result of the disease and, as such, the patient loses control. It is important to remember that addiction is not a choice.
However, since loved ones do have a strong influence over a person, an intervention or simple conversation surrounding their issues may have an effect. It is important to show compassion and understanding whilst letting them know that you love them and are concerned about them.
Barriers To Helping A Loved One Who Is Addicted
When you first approach your loved one regarding their struggle with addiction, it can often be a fruitless endeavour, but this does not mean that they will not access help in the long run. It pays to be aware of some of the barriers you may face when talking to the person as this can help you to tackle these issues.
The person may be in denial and refuse to accept that they have an addiction – this is one of the most common issues faced by families of those struggling with addiction. Additionally, your loved one may wish to avoid the topic altogether and use deflecting tactics to move away from it.
Another common emotion is anger, and your loved one may lash out or become aggressive when you attempt to talk to them. They may see their addiction as a way of coping and may find it difficult to let go.
All of these things can be frustrating for friends and family but working through things together and being understanding can yield the best results.
Difficulties To Expect When Helping A Loved One
Battling addiction is a challenging time but there are some difficulties that most people can expect to face when trying to help a loved one with an addiction. These might include:
- They may not think that they have a problem
- They may be reluctant to talk about personal problems
- They may feel ashamed
- They may not want to change their behaviour
- They may feel that talking to someone they don’t know i.e. a doctor or counsellor to be awkward and embarrassing
- Their addiction may be a way of dealing with underlying issues such as trauma or mental health problems
Compassion For A Loved One As A Key To Healing
Many people consider tough love to be the appropriate approach to addiction but this may not be as helpful as people once believed. Being compassionate will not, as some people think, enable or encourage behaviours but have the opposite effect and help addicts access support.
Many addiction recovery programs now have the capacity to fully involve family and friends in recovery and it is proving to be very effective. But before this process even begins, loved ones should encourage the addicted person to seek help and do so in a loving manner.
Making changes yourself can guide your loved one to asking for help but you might also work with them to find out why their addiction developed in the first place. This way of tackling addiction has proven, time and time again, to be most effective.
10 Pragmatic Steps To Helping A Loved One Deal With Addiction
It may feel intimidating when setting out on your journey to help your loved one with addiction, however, there are many ways that you can make it as successful as possible. These steps will help you along the way:
- Educate yourself on addiction
- Give the person love and support but do not enable their substance use
- Do not offer financial support for their addiction
- Set healthy boundaries and remain firm with them
- Help yourself in order to help them
- Do not allow the person’s addiction to take control of your life
- Try not to make them feel guilty or lecture them about their addiction
- Research treatment options
- Encourage your loved one to find help
- Involve yourself in the rehab program
5 Things To Avoid When Helping A Loved One Deal With Addiction
As well as things you should do when helping your loved one, there are some things that you should try to avoid as this may push your loved one away and stop them from accessing the support they need:
Don't judge them or make them feel as though this is their fault. There aren't many people who 'decided' to become addicted and it is likely that they blame themselves enough without it coming from an external source.
Do not ignore the issue. Whilst it may be confronting, ignoring it will not make the addiction go away. It can feel easier to make excuses for them or pretend that there isn't a problem but in the long run, this will only make things worse.
Don't give an ultimatum. This may work in the short term but since addiction is a disease, the person does not have control over it and so ultimatums will not be effective.
Don't enable their addiction. Some people find that they can't watch their loved one suffer if they cannot access the substance and so provide it for them or they may lie and cover-up for the behaviours of their loved one. It is important not to do this and to allow the person to be accountable for their actions.
Don't give up - there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It may feel as though nothing will ever change and it can be tempting to communicate this to the person but it is important to remain positive as this will encourage them to keep going.
The Importance Of Establishing Trust
Having a trusting relationship that works both ways is vital in overcoming addiction. This may feel difficult if your loved one has repeatedly broken your trust but understanding how this has happened might make it easier to fix.
You may feel that you are offering help to your loved one but they may have a different view and oftentimes, addicted people can feel as though their loved ones are trying to control them. Additionally, stress can be a factor and could cause your loved one to use the substance more. If the relationship causes stress, it could cause further substance abuse.
You should avoid trying to protect your loved one from the consequences that their addiction has caused, this will go a long way in building a trusting relationship in the long run.
There are other things that you should avoid doing if you want to build trust, these include:
- Not being judgemental or nagging the person
- No name-calling or aggressive language, even if you are feeling at your wit’s end
- Not engaging in addictive behaviours as a way of coping with the stress that the situation is causing.
What Happens In The Event Of A Relapse?
Even if someone goes through an intensive program with professional help, relapse is still a possibility and it can help to think about it in comparison to a physical disease, which, even after being cured, can return.
One of the key elements of dealing with a relapse is to be sure that you are healthy yourself by practising good self-care and accessing support groups if you need to.
Being supportive and understanding can help your loved one to overcome the release and access further help if necessary. However, a relapse can be potentially avoided by removing all substances from the home to remove the temptation, this includes having other people using substances. It can also help to do things together such as exercise or healthy eating plans as well as finding new hobbies and interests.
Wondering how you can help?
If you’re worried about a loved one’s addiction and are looking for more information, call us today on 0800 088 66 86 for a free & confidential discussion about rehabilitation and detoxification.