Seeing a family member, friend, or loved one go through addiction is a heartbreaking experience, and people are right to be concerned - 841,000 Americans have died since 1999 from a drug overdose. Addiction quickly gains a foothold in peoples lives, and they can seemingly change overnight, prioritizing drug or alcohol use over anything else.
As powerless as you can seem, it is possible to help. You don’t have to sit on the sidelines and watch as addiction consumes your loved ones life. This blog will explain the do’s and don’ts of being close to someone struggling with addiction and how you can best help them and yourself.
Know What to Look For
If you’re reading this, there is a good chance you’re worried about someone’s alcohol and drug use or their mental health. It’s never easy to see a loved one struggling, and we naturally want to help. If you suspect that your loved one is having difficulties with addiction, look out for the following signs:
- Appearing intoxicated at inappropriate places or times of day
- Lying about drug use
- Problems with cognition and memory
- Becoming angry and withdrawn when you mention their substance use
- Neglecting their physical appearance
It can be tempting to stage an intervention right away - after all, we want them to get help as soon as possible. However, you don’t want them to feel suffocated or trapped, so it’s worth speaking to an addiction professional before you do anything.
Successful interventions should be controlled rather than spontaneous and emotionally charged. Most treatment facilities will have intervention specialists on their staff, or they can usually recommend someone who can help you plan how to help your loved one best.
Prepare for Difficulty
It can be challenging when helping someone with a substance addiction. People respond differently to pressure, and your loved one may:
- Think they are in control of their use
- Not want to change
- Fear the consequences of entering into a treatment program
- Feel judged by their family and friends
- Not have faith that they can recover
- Have untreated conditions such as PTSD or anxiety they are self-medicating
Unfortunately, there is no magical solution for addiction, and recovery takes a great deal of determination. Focus on building trust and honesty, and respect their privacy without threatening, criticizing, and expecting them to change right away.
The less judgmental and more compassionate you are with them, the more likely they will feel they can open up to you. This can take time - be prepared for them to deny they have a problem at first.
Don’t use language that shames them - remember that addiction is a disease they cannot control. Addiction is also often a coping strategy for deeper-seated problems you might not be aware of.
Being compassionate also means removing temptation. While you cannot stop people from drinking or using drugs, you can stop enabling behavior. This includes:
- Not having alcohol in the house if you live with them
- Not drinking alcohol in front of them or with them
- Not giving them money
- Not lying or covering up for them
Addiction Intervention and Substance Abuse Treatment
If your loved one won’t acknowledge they have a problem or cannot stop, an intervention followed by residential treatment may be the best option. It is helpful to speak to a treatment provider first so you can work out:
- How much it will likely cost and whether your insurance will cover it
- Whether they can provide an intervention or recommend someone who can
- If the intervention includes transport to a treatment center
- If the treatment center offers ongoing support groups or aftercare
Although it can be anxiety-inducing at times, remember that it’s a labor of love. The benefits far outweigh the difficulties, and your loved one will come to understand that you’re trying to help them. Ensure you take care of your mental health during the process and speak to a professional if the pressure becomes too much.