How To Help a Friend or Family Member With Drug Addiction
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, every year over 19.7 million Americans fight against substance abuse. This means that well over 40 million Americans have a friend or family member with drug addiction issues. That’s more people than the entire state of California who are affected by drug addiction in some way.
Knowing how to support an addict can be tricky. How do you carefully walk the line between helping them on their way to recovery and enabling them to sink deeper into their addiction? This guide is meant to help you understand how to best help your loved ones with addiction.
Open Yourself Up to Education
The good news is that you’re already off to a great start. The fact that you’re reading this guide is a step in the right direction. The first step in helping loved ones with addiction is education.
Addiction is a complicated and multi-faceted problem. It’s a disease that doesn’t let go of its victims without a fight. The more you understand about addiction and the process of recovery, the better off you and your loved ones are.
There is a ton of educational and informational resources out there on the systems of drug abuse.
Remember, it’s easy to miss the signs of drug addiction even when they’re right in front of you. This is doubly true if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Be Supportive and Understanding…
The attitudes surrounding addiction are slowly changing. In the days of the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous, there was a need for a discreet, anonymous program to help men and women struggling with addiction because of the public shame and social repercussions of admitting they had a problem with alcohol. While it’s still not socially acceptable to be addicted, more and more people understand the processes of addiction than ever before.
That said, when you’re deep in the throes of addiction, it’s difficult to see yourself as someone worthy of love. The disease blinds you to the support and love of the people around you. It’s a disease that is steeped in shame.
If you react to a loved one who is dealing with addiction in a way that makes them feel more ashamed, you’re only going to push them deeper into their addiction. Even more troubling, lashing out against a person with addiction may ensure that they never seek help again.
… But Don’t Enable
While the key to truly assisting a person through their addiction is kindness, there is a fine line between understanding and enabling.
The trouble with enabling is that it often feels like kindness. Small, seemingly harmless things can actually be supporting your loved one’s addiction.
Do your best not to rescue them. It’s important that they feel the natural consequences of their actions, whether it’s facing time in jail or not being able to pay for their electricity. People often don’t change until they absolutely have to.
When you love someone who has an addiction, helping them out financially feels like something you have to do. But when you pay their court fines, cover their rent, or buy them groceries, you’re prolonging their addiction.
Make Getting Help Easy
Just like with any other disease, the sooner they can get treatment, the better. The way that addiction differs from a typical disease is the fact that a person with an addiction doesn’t want to get help, most of the time. You’ll likely hear a thousand excuses why they can’t or won’t seek treatment.
Don’t let up. Persistence is the key here. Let them know how important treatment is and do it often.
It can be tricky to walk the line between offering to get help and making them feel guilty or ashamed. But it’s important that you try.
Another option is to hold an intervention for the person you love. Interventions aren’t easy, they require a lot of emotional labor that can be exhausting for all involved. Plus, coordinating it can be tricky.
But they’re often very effective for someone who is lost deep in addiction. Intervention specialists are available to help you walk through the steps of this emotional task.
Understand that Recovery is Not Linear
Relapse is a part of recovery. It’s a hard fact to accept, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
In a perfect world, our loved ones would enter recovery, complete the program, attend meetings, and never pick up their drug of choice again. But we don’t live in the perfect world. We live in the real one.
The real world is filled with struggle, hardships, triggers, and temptation. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the relapse rate in America is between 40% and 60%.
If your loved one falls back into old, addictive habits, they need help as soon as possible to get them back into treatment and on the road to recovery once more. This is where being solid support in their system will help them get healthy and stay healthy for life.
Take Time for Yourself
By now, you’ve realized that loving someone through their addiction is not an easy thing. It takes a lot of mental, emotional, and even physical labor. The stress and worry alone are enough to take a toll on your immune system.
That’s why it’s important that you take time for yourself and step back if you need to. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. It’s impossible to pour from an empty cup.
Find a therapist who is experienced in helping people with family members in active addiction to help you when you’re struggling.
How to Help a Friend or Family Member with Drug Addiction
Having a friend or family member with drug addiction isn’t easy. There’s so much work to be done and it can feel like you’re in it alone. But there is life after addiction and when you help your loved ones work through their disease, you can enjoy it right alongside them.
For more information about how to help someone with addiction, contact us today.