What To Do When A Loved One Is Struggling With Addiction?
The drug addiction problem in the United States is getting worse with every passing year. It is one of the biggest challenges faced by families. Because when a father, mother, daughter, son, or a loved one is an addict, the effects are felt by everyone.
Substance abuse disorder or drug addiction as more commonly known is defined as a chronic but treatable disease that affects the user’s brain and alters his behavior. It is characterized by an uncontrollable, compulsive urge to use drugs at the risk of one’s physical, mental, economic, and social state. Legal or illegal substances including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, chemical opioids are all considered drugs.
Who is an Addict?
When people struggle with drug addiction, their behavior starts changing subtly at first and then dramatically to the point where they cause distress in loved ones. Some of the early signs to watch out for include-
- Lack of energy and interest in daily routine. The individual will display irregular sleeping patterns, be lethargic, and generally appear tired or unwell.
- Developing memory and cognitive problems.
- Displaying poor hygiene and disheveled, neglected appearance.
- Developing problems at school or work.
- Getting highly emotional and defensive when questioned about their personal life.
- Avoiding social events and family gatherings where they fear being scrutinized.
- Excessive borrowing and even stealing money and valuables to support their addiction.
The initial reaction, when faced with the drug addiction of a loved one, is dismay, shock, and helplessness to some degree. Often, there can be misunderstandings and quick judgments leading to discord and families torn apart. Mishandling the situation creates mistrust, ruins relationships, and builds up walls between people who love each other.
And more often than not, we feel helpless to deal with the loved one’s addiction problem. But the fact is family members or the loved ones of addicts play a vital role in ensuring they get the much-needed treatment and recovery.
What can I do?
Drug addiction has no miracle cure or a quick fix. On the other hand, it is a lifelong battle that the user must fight against as chances of relapse are extremely high in the absence of behavioral modifications and a conducive non-additive environment.
As such it takes dedication, perseverance, time, and considerable effort to support a loved one through de-addiction.
The heightened sense of obligation to help a loved one struggling with addiction may be more damaging if we don’t understand what addiction is. To start, we must look at addiction as a compulsive disease that the individual cannot control.
For the addict, using drugs might have started initially as a curiosity, recreation, under peer pressure, to get over an emotional period, physical injury, or more. But over time it becomes less of a choice and more of an uncontrollable craving causing irreparable consequences.
So take the effort to do your research and learn about the nature and particular behavior of drug addiction. Often it can be more than a substance abuse like an underlying emotional issue, physical disorder, or chemical imbalance that leads a person to addiction.
Do Not Enable:
To watch a loved one spiral into drug addiction can be very difficult to watch. And we are drawn to help them but there exists a fine line between support and further enabling the addiction.
For instance by offering financial assistance, handling their responsibilities, offering excuses for their behavior, etc. we shield them from the realities caused by their addiction. And this enables them to continue their destructive habits.
An addict needs to understand the consequences of their action and accept their addiction to commit to a treatment program.
Time for Action:
This is an emotionally fraught situation for both the addicted person and you. Blame games, guilt trips, and conflicts can get the better of us leading the drug addiction to progress further.
It is natural to feel overwhelmed with feelings of confusion hurt and anger. But you must realize that recovery from drug addiction is possible and you can help your loved one achieve it.
So instead of ignoring the condition or preaching and threatening, we must take action by intervening and seeking professional guidance. An intervention is the first critical step to address the problem and it requires planning and strategy. It is advisable to seek out a professional to successfully stage this.
At some point, it becomes everyone’s responsibility to help heal your loved one from drug addiction. If the family chooses to stay indifferent and remote in the healing process it can hamper the recovery.
As complex as addiction can be, most originate in family issues and behavioral patterns of their living environment. So by utilizing family treatment programs and therapy you can facilitate the healing.
Compassion is Key:
One of the biggest motivators through which we can encourage our loved one struggling with drug addiction is ‘Compassion’. Having strong social support is the key to getting them into treatment and stay in recovery.
So how do we practice compassion?
By exercising empathy and making it comfortable for them to open up so that both affected parties can understand each other to work together against drug addiction. Family and friends play an integral role in the recovery journey so wholeheartedly participate in the treatment program.
So yes, by having an open mind and putting emphasis on care, you can undoubtedly play a huge influence in restoring your loved one to sobriety.
Research, Research and Research:
To stage an intervention for your loved one struggling with drug addiction and carry it forward, you need to be well prepared. The more informed you are the easier it will be for them to get into a recovery plan when the time comes.
Begin your research by seeking out different drug rehabilitation centers and studying their treatment program and success rate. You can do this by going online, speaking with them, request literature, and if allowed even visit the center. Stay current with various methods of treatment and keep updating yourself.
By exploring all the available options, you can then best decide which would be the best place for your loved one.
Focus on Yourself
As selfish as this may sound, practicing self-care is an essential practice to help your loved one battle drug addiction. Addiction is an affliction that takes a toll not only on the person but the entire family and loved ones. And if you are already stressed with your issues, then it becomes incredibly hard to help someone who is adding more difficulties for you.
Feelings of guilt and being responsible for the addiction is a trauma that most family members take upon themselves. And this adds tension to the already fraught situation. Set boundaries so that their addiction struggles don’t take over you.
So help yourself first before helping out. Invest time and effort to take care by keeping fit, doing the things you enjoy, get out of the house, grab coffee with friends, etc. And don’t hesitate to seek professional counseling if you find it unable to cope with the challenges of your loved ones’ addiction.
Many organizations offer free counseling especially for families to deal with such problems. Remember that the healthier and happier you are, the better you can help your loved one suffering from drug addiction.
And what not to do.
Don’t resent– It is normal to feel upset at your loved one because of the difficulties created by the addiction. But we need to avoid blaming or shaming them for using drugs. It is not judgment but supports that they need to overcome this disease.
Don’t ignore -Accepting that your loved one is struggling with drug addiction is hard and you may be tempted to ignore the signs or make excuses for their behavior. However, ignoring the addiction will not make it go away.
The condition of your loved one will worsen the more they use drugs. And by convincing yourself that it’s just a phase or downplaying the severity of the issue we delay intervention, and this in turn helps in their progression.
Don’t force -Emotional pleas and ultimatums may likely force them to get into treatment but if the addicted person is not ready to straighten their life, the recovery is temporary. They will invariably fall back into their cravings once rehab gets done.
Don’t quit -Don’t give in to frustration. It takes a lot of patience to help a loved one go through addiction. Giving up comes easily especially when they refuse help or relapse. And tough as it is, you need to be firm and keep up a strong support system. Because chances are if you give up on them, they will too.
When faced with a loved one struggling with drug addiction, encouraging them to seek professional help is the best way to go about. Although your love for them might burden you to help them, addiction cannot be treated at home. So be supportive and loving but be firm and relentless in encouraging them to get help to achieve a drug-free and happy life.