It can feel hopeless when someone you care about is struggling with addiction. You might be at your wit’s end trying to convince them to seek treatment, but it is possible to get them to realize and accept that they have a problem. However, the process isn’t easy and may cause some emotional distress on both sides. At Choice House, we know that the friends and families of addicts want what’s best for their loved ones, so we’ve put together some information on helping someone with an addiction and how you can provide support without losing yourself along the way. Keep reading to learn more.
First, Remember that Addiction is a Disease
Addiction is classified by experts as a severe substance use disorder that persists despite the negative consequences. People with addiction have become so dependent on drugs or alcohol that it impacts their ability to function normally. They may also experience behavioral or emotional problems as their brain chemistry changes. And while it can happen to anyone, it’s important to remember that it isn’t a moral failing or a sign of weakness. Once you understand that addiction is a disease, it becomes easier to support and sympathize with your loved one. It can also help you realize that, like any other disease, addiction is treatable with the right support. Depending on the severity, this often involves a mix of therapy, mental health care and coping skills development to help maintain lasting sobriety.
Prepare for a Difficult Conversation
If you think they’d be responsive to it, you can try talking to your loved one and expressing concern over their drug or alcohol use. This is a conversation you should prepare for, however, rather than going in blindly. You want to make sure that you pick the right time, that you don’t let your emotions get the best of you, and that you’re prepared for how they might react. It can also be helpful to decide whether you want to stage a full-blown intervention or take a more casual approach with less pressure on those involved. Here are some other tips that can help make this part easier:
- Don’t confront your loved one while they’re high or drunk
- Come from a place of love, rather than anger
- Write down what you want to say beforehand
- Be prepared for various emotional reactions
- Research treatment options so you can recommend a solution
- Remember that recovery takes time
- Encourage them to attend support groups or recovery meetings
- If needed, consult with a professional interventionist
Speaking to your loved one won’t magically cure their addiction, but it can be a step in the right direction that helps them realize how their actions are impacting others. Many times, people assume they aren’t hurting anyone but themselves. Also keep in mind that abruptly stopping drugs or alcohol can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms, so it’s unreasonable to expect them to quit cold turkey without professional help.
Set a Healthy Example
Addiction can lead to harmful behaviors, and it’s important not to normalize or participate in them. For example, if you’re invited over by a friend or family member struggling with alcohol abuse, be mindful of that when you see them and try to moderate your own drinking. What might be an occasional indulgence for you could be part of their daily routine, and that’s not something you want to encourage. The same goes for recreational drugs, which are best to avoid anyway for your own health and well-being. Otherwise, your loved one might start thinking that binge drinking or getting high every night isn’t that bad.
In contrast, leading an active, healthy lifestyle sets a good example and might encourage them to follow suit. If not, it will at least make you feel mentally and physically better as you navigate these rough waters. Some things you can do include eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting a good night’s sleep. If you’re feeling emotionally drained, practicing meditation or yoga can help you recharge your batteries. And finally, if you need to talk to a professional to process what you’re going through, seeing you do so can be a catalyst for positive change that inspires your loved one to seek help, too.
Don’t Enable Their Behavior
We all want to be a good friend, parent, spouse or sibling, but sometimes that can lead us to making poor decisions that jeopardize the health of our loved one. When it comes to substance abuse, this might include making up excuses, providing financial support, or taking on more than your fair share of responsibilities at home. This is what’s known as enabling, and while it comes from a desire to protect the addict, in reality, it shields them from the consequences of their behavior and allows it to continue. It can also lead to unhealthy and codependent relationships. Instead, it’s better to set boundaries and encourage your loved one to change on their own. If they’re not ready to check into rehab, letting them experience the repercussions of their actions might help them get there sooner.
Seek Support for Yourself
It’s hard to help others if you don’t also help yourself. That’s why flight attendants tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first in the event of an emergency. The same is true when you have a loved one struggling with addiction — it’s important to look after your own health while trying to improve theirs. Individual situations vary, but substance abuse can result in issues such as domestic violence, codependency, stress, anxiety, broken relationships, financial strain and more. Left unchecked, these can take a toll on your mental and emotional wellness, but support is available for friends, family members and spouses of addicts. Some tips from experts for fulfilling your own needs include:
- Seek help from a support group such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon
- Set healthy boundaries
- Take the time to practice good self-care
- Ask your doctor for tips on reducing stress and anxiety
- Talk to someone about what you’re going through
- If you also have addiction issues, it’s possible to get sober together
- Don’t make excuses for their behavior
Sometimes, it’s necessary to walk away from the relationship, especially if your loved one refuses to get help. This can be a difficult choice, but there are times when removing yourself from a toxic situation is the right call. If you do end things, follow through with your decision and only consider reconciling if they commit to recovery and make some serious changes. Couples or family counseling can help you repair your relationship going forward.
Watching a loved one fall victim to addiction is never easy, but you can jumpstart the recovery process by encouraging them to seek help. Choice House in Boulder, Colorado, offers a wide array of recovery solutions for men from all walks of life, including a family program for parents, siblings and spouses. Together, we can heal the rift that addiction has caused and move forward together happier, healthier and better than ever. To learn more, don’t hesitate to reach out by clicking here or calling 303-578-4975.