Observing a loved one battling addiction can be emotionally devastating. Here are five strategies to help someone with addiction while safeguarding your own mental well-being.
Step 1: Identifying the Issue
In our nation, drug addiction has reached epidemic proportions, yet the signs of addiction often go unnoticed by those who could provide essential support if they were aware of their loved one’s, coworker’s, or friend’s struggles. While clinical symptoms of addiction might escape the notice of friends and family, there are unmistakable warning signs that are more readily identifiable, including:
- Drastic and abrupt changes in behavior: For instance, an individual who has consistently been punctual and dependable may start showing up late for important commitments, missing work, or even vanishing for extended periods.
- Motivation changes: Not finding the same joy in activities. Not wanting to do day-to-day tasks. Not caring about consequences of lack of motivation.
- Swift mood swings: This person may exhibit depressive and lethargic behavior one day, only to appear euphoric and full of energy the next. They might also become more argumentative and lose their usual patience.
- Financial difficulties or efforts to hide expenditures: Overdue bills or missing valuables in the house might catch your attention. Addiction often thrives in secrecy, pushing individuals to engage in actions they never would have considered before to secure more drugs and avoid withdrawal symptoms. Even those known for their honesty and principles may resort to lying, borrowing, or stealing to sustain their habit while concealing it from you.
- Legal ramifications: Are you noticing an unusually high frequency of drug-related incidents in someone you know, such as DUIs or possession of controlled substances? The explanations may sound believable, but a nagging suspicion tells you that it’s more than just a random run of unfavorable events. Your instincts are likely on target.
Step 2: Taking Action
Guiding someone you deeply care about into treatment can be a challenging endeavor. Even though the severity of their addiction might be glaringly evident to everyone else, it’s not uncommon for the individual in question to downplay the issue and cling to whatever semblance of control they still believe they possess. They may fear change, resist trying something new, or outright reject the idea of seeking treatment.
Here are some valuable strategies to persuade someone to consider treatment:
- Act with urgency: The longer you wait, the more challenging it becomes to convince someone to seek treatment. Prior to your intervention, ensure that everything is meticulously arranged. Identify a treatment center that is ready to admit your loved one immediately, make travel arrangements, address financial concerns, arrange for childcare, and even prepare a suitcase. Strive to eliminate any excuses or reasons that might cause delays in seeking treatment.
- Don’t go it alone: Seek the assistance of a professional experienced in conducting interventions. Some treatment centers may also offer support for the intervention process. Additionally, involve others who are close to the individual, such as family members, dear friends, and other sources of support. Recognize the leverage that each person possesses in the situation. Professional Interventionists are a safe and reliable resource for advice and implementation of an intervention. It is IMPORTANT to seek intervention with professional help. Conducting one without it can drive your loved one away and cause more harm than good.
- Engage the “enabler”: Nearly every family has someone who enables the addiction, whether by providing financial support or making constant excuses, inadvertently impeding the individual’s growth and change. It’s crucial to get the “enabler” on board with the intervention process, as their actions could undermine your efforts. It is tricky to know when to help an addict or cut off support. Going to AlAnon meetings can put you in touch with others going through the same thing. AlAnon meetings are available all across the US and online as well. Go to this link to learn more: https://al-anon.org/al-anon-meetings/find-an-al-anon-meeting/
- Know when an intervention will NOT help: Again, this is where the advice of a professional will help greatly. Ultimately, it is up to the addict to admit they have a problem and consent to getting help. Each individual is unique. A professional will know when or IF an intervention will be helpful.
Step 3: Offering Assistance
Overcoming addiction is a significant journey, and your support can greatly enhance your loved one’s chances of success. This support can take various forms, such as:
- Financial Assistance for Treatment: Providing financial support to cover the costs of their treatment, ensuring they have access to the necessary resources for their recovery journey. Financial support for this loved one should be within reason, not to the point of harming others in the family.
- Emotional Support: Being there for them emotionally, offering a listening ear, understanding, and empathy as they navigate the challenges of recovery. Your balanced emotional support can provide a crucial foundation for their healing process. Emotional support should in NO WAY infringe on your own mental and emotional health.
- Practical Aid: Assisting with practical matters that might otherwise divert their attention from treatment. This could involve helping with day-to-day responsibilities, childcare, or any other practical concerns that could be a barrier to their recovery efforts. Again, finding a balance between helping or enabling is important here. Making day-to-day life too easy for someone is not helpful either.
Step 4: Maintaining Engagement
- Families often grapple with feelings of helplessness and frustration when faced with addiction, leading to the common question, “How can I help?” In response, avoid these two extremes: excessive involvement or complete withdrawal to manage personal emotions.
- Instead, try a balanced approach. Family members should remain present and engaged while also pursuing their own path to recovery. This might involve attending Al-Anon meetings regularly or seeking individual or family counseling to address any emotional issues related to the addiction. Counseling can empower family members to become supportive figures in their loved one’s recovery journey, rather than fostering codependency.
- In the context of addiction, the notion that “time heals all wounds” is not accurate. Given the severe and chronic nature of this condition, it demands individual commitment and the active participation of anyone affected, whether it’s a family member, employer, or friend genuinely concerned about the individual’s well-being. Everyone involved should know and share a dedication to the goals of recovery. Family members can be prepared to invest the necessary time and effort in therapeutic work to facilitate healing. Family therapy may be necessary, as well as keeping in touch with the facility where the addict receives treatment.
Step 5: Acknowledge the Long-Term Nature of Recovery
Just as addiction didn’t develop overnight, the path to recovery won’t be instantaneous either. There will inevitably be obstacles along the way. Helping someone with addiction requires patience. It has been proven that long-term treatment is necessary to achieve long-term results. Healing can be slow at times. Motivation can wane. Revelations and changes in behavior can happen sporadically.
Setbacks and relapses are not uncommon in the chronic nature of addiction. There will be moments when the situation appears daunting, and hope might waver. However, if you remain resolute in your commitment to offer positive support and stay dedicated to the process of recovery, your loved one will have a significantly improved chance of doing the same.