How to Support an Addicted Loved One

Addiction is a crisis on a national level. Odds are that you have a loved one who needs addiction treatment. But finding ways to help your loved one get the treatment they need isn’t easy. They may feel like they don’t have a problem, or that they don’t want to stop. The addict may be afraid of stopping and uses excuses like they’ll lose their job or home if they seek treatment. How do we, as family and friends, help our loved ones get the treatment they need? It starts with understanding addiction as a mental illness, becoming aware of our actions, treating our loved ones with compassion, and finding help for ourselves to heal.

Understanding Addiction

Addiction isn’t a character defect or a moral failing. It’s a mental and physical illness. When a person becomes addicted, the neural pathways in the brain change. It rewires itself, and the body adjusts to relying on the substance to feel “normal.” The addict no longer has control over the substance. They experience a compulsion and mental obsession to use regardless of consequences.

Along with the physical and mental changes that happen with addiction, your loved one is also dealing with a lot of emotional issues around their substance abuse. Addicts start using because they are covering up feelings and emotions they don’t want to deal with. Many have a trauma they have experienced. When they come down, those feelings bubble up again, and they need to use to make them go away. Their substance of choice has become their coping mechanism for life. They’re afraid of giving it up because it’s the only thing that has ever worked for them. They experience incredible shame and self-loathing with their using.

Co-Dependency & Enabling

We can’t get our loved ones sober or into addiction treatment, but there are things that we can do ourselves to help. Many people who love addicts engage in codependency and enabling behaviors. They take responsibility for the addict’s actions. They ignore their own needs and focus on their loved ones. Family members may focus on “fixing” the other person and not have boundaries. These habits and behaviors keep our loved one sick.

You can stop enabling your loved one. Allow the addict to take responsibility for their actions. If they get arrested, don’t bail them out. If they run up a debt, don’t pay it off for them. These actions enable the addict to continue with their substance abuse. You should set boundaries that you feel comfortable with. For example, don’t participate in situations where your family member is using. Set an example by not indulging in recreational drugs or alcohol yourself, otherwise, they may see you as a hypocrite.

Compassion

While some of these suggestions may sound harsh, it’s important to use them with love. The most important thing when dealing with a loved one who needs addiction treatment is to treat them with compassion. People who suffer from addiction often feel like no one cares about them. They’re full of self-loathing and believe they’re worthless. Instead of reinforcing the shame they already feel, try non-confrontational and supportive techniques. Recognize that your loved one is suffering and listen to them so that they feel heard. If they don’t want to talk about it, that’s okay – tell them that you’re there for them and will listen when they’re ready.

You want to validate any feelings or emotions they have and make sure that they know you care about them and will be there to comfort them. If you come to the addict with anger, you’re reinforcing what they already feel about themselves. Instead, let them know that you’re there for them, that you love them, and that you recognize that they’re suffering. Offer help and resources for addiction treatment. Be there for them when they’re ready.

Take care of yourself

As family and friends of an addict, it’s no surprise that addiction is actually a family disease and that you too will need treatment to recover. You need to deal with your feelings and emotions in healthy ways, otherwise trying to treat your loved one with compassion isn’t going to work. You need to take care of yourself, recognize your own emotions and needs, and meet them. You may not think that you are helping your loved one seek addiction treatment by taking care of yourself. But, if your world centers around the addict in your life and you put your feelings and needs first, you create healthy boundaries. Seek the help of a therapist or support group like AL-ANON. Learn how to detach with love and compassion. Learn how to take care of yourself and your family.

Loving an addict can take a lot out of you. But you need to remember that you didn’t cause the disease of addiction, and you can’t cure it or control it. What you can control is your actions, reactions, and the way that you interact with your loved one. Communicate with them lovingly and compassionately, and let them know that you’re there for them – that you see them, you hear them, and you love them. And hold onto the hope that they will seek the addiction treatment they need.

How to Reach Out To Your Addicted Loved One

You can never understand the effect alcohol and substance abuse have on an individual until it affects your loved one. At this point, you start wondering; how did they start? What led them to this unhealthy lifestyle? How can you be of help to them? Finding the right answers to these questions is difficult because they might not accept your help. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot reach out to them. Because the addiction problems are unique, you will need to devise ways to help them overcome their problems. Here’s how:

The Things to Avoid

Playing the blame game

Blaming them for their woes is one of the worst things you can do as a person who is reaching out. They will not only make an enemy out of you, but they will also go back to the drugs to drown their miseries. It doesn’t matter whether you are the cause of their habits or they started doing it for fun.

Confronting them when they are high

When an addict is high on drugs, they tend to have irrational thoughts. Confronting or having a candid conversation is an uphill task because of their state of mind. Insisting on doing this not only escalates into arguments, but it also triggers their aggressive behaviors.

Enabling

Your addicted friend or relative can easily make you feel like you are the cause of their decisions. Covering-up or making excuses to justify their habits only allows them to become habitual liars and trigger their habits. It makes them believe that they are justified to take more drugs because they hold others responsible.

Setting unrealistic expectations

You may not like the idea of associating with an addict. You start thinking that it takes a day, week, or a month to recover. Well, that isn’t entirely true. The journey to sobriety is a gradual process that is filled with challenges such as withdrawal symptoms, triggers, anxiety, cravings, and many more. This is a perfect recipe for future heartaches if you had higher expectations.

What to Do

Have a one-on-one conversation with them

Addicted people tend to isolate themselves from people for fear of being judged or intimidated because of their actions. For this reason, they will avoid anyone who tries to talk them out of their unhealthy habits. As a person who has their interest at heart, you need to have a sober one-on-one conversation, instead of gathering a battalion.

Get a quiet place where they feel comfortable. Let them air their frustrations if there’s any. Adapt a compassionate conversation with them to avoid provoking them any further. That way, they will open up to you.

Be positive

Did you know that more than 200 Americans die from drug-related overdose each day? The fear of losing a loved one on drugs is inevitable. Feeling sorry for them won’t help them either. Like any other disease, drug addiction is treatable. This is the time to look on the bright side. When you stay positive, they will also see light at the end of the tunnel.

Encourage healthy habits

Most addicts aren’t keen on what they eat, how they dress, and how they view life. You see, drugs only give them what they want to believe. Addiction worsens their mental, physical, and physiological wellbeing when they indulge in unhealthy lifestyles.

Always encourage them to adopt healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet, exercise, and rediscovering their hobbies. That way, they will be quick to accept professional help and stay healthy.

Recommend professional help

A person with an addiction problem isn’t quick to ditch the habit because they are delusional. You might not realize the effect it will have on you, and the rest of your family members, until they go back to drugs. At this point, you can stage an intervention led by their loved ones and a professional in a supportive environment.

During the intervention, the assigned therapist will give everyone a chance to voice their opinions on alcohol and substance abuse. Though the addict may remain in denial about their condition, an intervention is a perfect plan to help them to think otherwise.

It takes compassion, enlightenment, and patience to help someone who is enslaved to drugs. If left untreated, it can cause a rift between them. Accepting and reaching out before it gets worse, is one of the best ways to help them.

About Footprints of Serenity

As an intervention facility located in the North Hollywood area of Los Angeles, Footprints of Serenity provides a holistic approach to persons battling addiction. Among the services they provide include; interventions, recovery companion, counseling among others. Visit our official website to book an appointment and to discover the types of services we offer.

Conclusion

Finding the right addiction treatment for your loved one involves a series of steps. You need to understand the Do’s and Don’ts to ensure they drop their unhealthy lifestyles and maintain a good relationship with their families and friends. In everything you do, always remember that addiction is a disease like any other. Remember, how you approach the issue will either help or worsen their addiction problems. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, reach out to us at Footprints of Serenity.