Almost one million people in the US have at least one addiction. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, gambling, or something else, these dependencies can have disastrous consequences for one’s mental and physical health.
But the effects don’t just stop at the addict. Addiction can be incredibly painful and challenging for the family and friends of those afflicted with the disease. Supporting a loved one with addiction problems can affect you financially and emotionally. Seeing the person you love going through these hardships and inflicting this pain on themselves can be heart-wrenching, and you will no doubt want to do everything you can to help them. But often, your offers of assistance can be rejected and it could cause turmoil in your relationship.
If you have a family member or close friend going through addiction, there are ways you can help. Although it may not always seem like it, your presence in their life is positive, and there are plenty of addicts out there who don’t have the advantage of loved ones around them to help them get better. But helping them to quit their addiction will not be easy, and you have to use the utmost tact and care. If you come on too strong you risk driving them away and potentially making things worse.
To help your loved one get through this difficult patch in their life, here are six tips for supporting a friend or family member with addiction.
Let them know they’re not alone
While it might be difficult to swallow, sometimes your loved ones may need support from someone who understands exactly what they’re going through. Guiding your loved ones in the direction of suitable support groups can help them alleviate some of the isolating feelings that may come to them as a result of their struggles. If accessibility is an issue, many of these can be reached online and from the comfort of your own home. Whether it’s an online alcohol support group or an anonymous narcotics support group, the answer for every person is different. With a little bit of trial and error, you and your loved ones will be able to rest easier in the knowledge that you’re not alone in your experiences.
It helps to know all the facts, so one of the best things you can do to help your loved one is to educate yourself. Do some research on addiction, focusing on the particular dependency they are afflicted by. You can find out more about the symptoms and health risks they may be facing, as well as the options for getting clean and beating their addiction. Arming yourself with all the facts will help your case when you come to talk to them, and will enable you to come up with a plan for getting them clean.
There are so many resources for accessing this kind of information, both online and in books. For drug and alcohol addictions, the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service website is a good place to start.
Book Them Into a Treatment Facility With Their Permission
Addiction is a severe problem that can have a devastating effect on the individual suffering from addiction and their loved ones. Addiction recovery centers provide a safe and structured environment where people can recover from addiction. Addiction recovery centers typically offer detoxification, counseling, and support groups. If you are considering booking your loved one into an addiction recovery center, it is essential to do so with their permission. Addiction recovery centers can only help those who want to help themselves. If your loved one is unwilling to enter an addiction recovery center, you may need to consider other options, such as an outpatient program or therapy. Addiction recovery is a difficult journey, but it is possible with the help of an addiction recovery center.
Everyone has their own unique life circumstances, and no matter how well you know your loved one, you will never fully understand what led them to take this path. Addictive behavior is often perceived as weak, selfish, or self-destructive but often is a coping mechanism for extreme hardship. If you confront the addict in a judgmental and aggressive way, this will not be helpful and could exacerbate the situation. You need to remain open to understanding what they are going through and be compassionate. Although you may never be able to fully comprehend what they are going through, you can listen to their problems and talk about solutions without rising to anger.
Look after yourself
Supporting a loved one with addiction can be incredibly painful and debilitating. It will take a toll on your mental health as you see them inflicting suffering on themselves and shunning all offers of compassion and help. For this reason, it is important that you take steps to look after yourself. There are plenty of support groups for those afflicted by addiction, whether directly or indirectly. By attending these meetings you will get to talk about your issues with others who have been through similar circumstances, and you may get some much-needed support and advice.
Remember not to be too harsh on yourself. Nothing that is happening is your fault, and these are circumstances beyond your control. Although you can offer help and support, it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to solve their addiction overnight. These things take a lot of time, so you’ll need to stay patient and be kind to yourself.
Don’t enable them
One of the worst things you can do when supporting someone with an addiction is to enable their behavior. It’s possible that your loved one may come to you asking for money to fund their addiction or help them out with legal troubles. As a compassionate friend or relative, your first instinct may be to give them exactly what they are asking for but you need to think about the long-term consequences. Giving them financial assistance could just help their addiction, and it may be better for them to actually experience the consequences of their disease.
Enabling doesn’t always take the form of financial aid. It could be that your loved one is an alcoholic, and they constantly rely on you to give them lifts in your car because they are too inebriated to drive. This is also a form of enabling, as they are putting you in a situation where you are constantly available to rescue them.
Often, people who are dependent on substances are unable to change unless they are forced into it. Stand your ground and refuse to offer any help that might make things worse for them and you.
Seek treatment options
Whatever their addiction may be, there is treatment available. There are recovery centers all over the country that specialize in all kinds of addictions and dependencies. These clinics offer programs for beating addiction, including detoxification, rehabilitation, and outpatient drug and alcohol treatment. These establishments are run by world-class health professionals and your loved one will receive the best care possible to help them move on from their addiction and start a new life.
The challenge, however, will be to get them to agree to it. It may require some tough love and intervention from their family and friends. They need to be able to see and hear the effects that their behavior has on everyone around them, and this will hopefully spur them into action.
Recovery from addiction is not a one-time thing. Once you have been an addict, you are an addict for life and it will be a constant battle for your loved one to stay clean. But with the right treatment and people around them that care for them, they will have the best chance possible to live their best life, free from addiction.