How to Help a Loved One with an Addiction
One of the hardest things about addiction is that it doesn’t just impact one person. An addiction to drugs or alcohol can have a direct effect on friends, family, coworkers and neighbors. When someone you know and care about is struggling with substance use, it can be difficult to know what to say and do.
While we all wish we could wish an addiction away, the truth is that only the loved one with an addiction can make the choice to change. Without a personal commitment to sobriety, long-term recovery will be impossible. The individual must desire recovery for his or her own life— it can’t be forced.
While there is a requirement of personal agency in getting clean, there are plenty of ways you can help your loved one get there and offer support once the decision to get clean has been made. Check out these tips for helping a loved one with an addiction.
Stay open to conversation
When you have a loved one who is struggling with an addiction, it can feel impossible to know what to say or do. The truth is, you don’t need to have perfect wording to show your support and make a significant impact on your friend who is struggling to break an addiction.
The important thing is continuing your relationship and creating the space to have conversations about recovery. For the bulk of these conversations, you’ll likely be listening, but here are some questions to open the floor:
- Have you been struggling to avoid drugs or alcohol?
- Have your symptoms of addiction gotten worse or better?
- Do you want to talk about treatment?
- What is holding you back from recovery?
When someone is struggling with substance use, he or she will often feel judged. Comments that weren’t intentionally critical can be misunderstood, so be prepared to apologize and reaffirm your relationship and commitment to helping.
Understand the science behind addiction
In the past few decades, our understanding of addiction as a society has changed drastically. What was once seen as a moral failure is now understood to be a complex neurological process that illuminates why a drug or alcohol habit is so hard to break.
Educating yourself on the biological aspect of addiction can help you understand your family member’s behaviors. You’ll also want to read up on signs and symptoms of addiction and warning signs of relapse. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to assist your loved one, and the more realistic your perspective will be.
Learn about treatment options and resources
Like understanding the neurological underpinnings of addiction, understanding local resources and treatment options is one of the best ways to help a loved one in addiction. You can do this research online, and be ready to discuss a few solid options in your community when the conversation comes up
Once your loved one has made the decision to get sober, your familiarity with treatment options can ease the tension when the reality of it starts to sink it. Starting treatment is daunting, especially if someone has never done it before. Soothe your friend’s worries by getting a head start on this step.
Hold an intervention
If your loved one doesn’t decide on his or her own to engage in treatment, you may want to consider an intervention. You may have seen this play out on TV, but interventions are often used to spur people into making serious change. Mayo Clinic states that an intervention is when loved ones join together to confront an individual about the damaging consequences of an addiction and make the case for professional treatment.
These interventions should be done with the collaboration of an addiction specialist, such as a social worker, psychologist or a doctor. An intervention should include examples of when addiction has resulted in negative actions and their impact on loved ones, a thorough plan for treatment and listed action steps and what will happen to relationships if the person refuses treatment.
Find support for yourself
Building up your friend and encouraging recovery is a noble thing, but it can also be exhausting. Your proximity to the ups and downs of addiction treatment is bound to take a toll on your energy level and emotional wellbeing, so finding support for yourself is a great way to help a loved one with an addiction.
Most treatment centers also offer family services or support groups for those closest to the individual in treatment. These are often peer-led groups, so you’ll be surrounded by people who have been in your shoes (or are currently in your same position).
Counseling may also be necessary if aiding your friend has become overwhelming. It might be appropriate to set boundaries and a professional can walk you through how to communicate your needs, too.
Call Pyramid Healthcare
If you have a loved one who is struggling with an addiction, reach out to Pyramid Healthcare. You can get in touch regarding admissions 24/7, so when your loved one is ready to make a change, you’ll know where to turn.
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