Whether it is alcohol, drugs, gambling, or something else, it can be very hard and stressful for friends and family to see a loved one struggle with addiction. There are worries about money and health, as well as mental problems that often come with it. You will want to do everything you can to help them, perhaps by exploring options such as inpatient rehab, but you do not know where to begin.
Here, we will talk about what you can do to help someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol. It is important to get help as soon as possible because addiction can be life-threatening and often leads to an early death. Find out what you can do to help by reading on.
Learn more about what addiction means.
We all think we know what addiction is, but until you or a member of your family is in the middle of it, you do not really know what it is like. Addiction is a disease, plain and simple. We usually think of diseases as things we have no control over, like cancer, but addiction is and should be treated as a disease. Before you do anything else to help your loved one, you need to know this.
“Addiction is a long-term disease that is marked by compulsive or hard-to-control drug seeking and use despite the harm it causes.” Most people choose to try drugs for the first time on their own, but repeated drug use can cause changes in the brain that make it hard to control oneself and hard to resist strong urges to use drugs. (Institute for the Study of Drug Abuse).
Be kind in your approach.
The person you want to get help for might seem to be acting “badly,” but they are not bad people. As we have already said, they have an illness. Getting a handle on this will help you move on and deal with the situation. It can be hard, especially if their actions hurt you, but remember that when someone is addicted to drugs, they are not themselves. They are high on strong drugs that can and do change their minds and moods and make them do things they would not normally do.
If a person with an addiction has hurt you physically or financially, you might be angry and want to strike back. Even though this makes sense in that situation, it will not help you or them. When someone who is addicted hears this, they are likely to get defensive and maybe even get deeper into their addiction.
Talk to them about how they are using drugs.
This is much easier to say than to do, since many addicts do not believe they have a problem or are ashamed of it and will not talk about it. But if you think someone you care about is abusing drugs, you should first talk to them one-on-one. Tell them that you think they may be addicted to drugs or alcohol and that you are worried about them. Someone pointing it out to them is sometimes all it takes to get them to get help, whether it is going to an outpatient heroin rehab program or just talking to their doctor or a counselor. Having information ready about groups and people who can help can be helpful. If they can not get help right then, there is nothing stopping you from calling groups like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous to find out what to do next.
Ask other friends and family members for help.
It is important not to make the person with addiction feel like they are being ganged up on, because that can make them pull away even more, but sometimes there is strength in numbers. As we have already said, addiction affects the whole family. Talk to the other people who are affected and make plans for how you can work together to solve the problem. This could mean having someone step in, which brings us to our next point.
Make rules for yourself.
Dealing with a loved one who is addicted to drugs can be all-consuming and take over your own life, putting you under a lot of pressure. Even though you will want to help them as much as you can, it is important to set some limits for yourself to protect your own happiness and mental health. When you have the intervention, you should be ready to tell the person who is addicted that you will stop doing certain things if they do not get help for their addiction. For some, this might mean not giving them any more money, while for others, it might mean staying away until they get help. In the end, it is up to you how much you want to get involved, but make sure it does not hurt your own health.
Get support for yourself
Addiction is heartbreaking for everyone involved and can lead to problems of your own. If you feel like you need extra support, do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
Remember that it is not your fault
It can be very easy when you are coping with an alcoholic or a drug addict to fall into the trap of thinking it was your fault, or there was something you could have done to prevent it. However, it isn’t, and you probably couldn’t have done anything to stop it. Many addicts are predisposed to the illness, and many others are triggered by some sort of traumatic event happening in their life. As difficult as it is, try not to take it personally. The same goes for if you do offer help and they do not take up that offer of help – it does not necessarily mean they do not appreciate you caring about them and wanting to help, it just means at that time, they are not ready to accept they have a problem or are not quite in the position to face it and seek treatment just yet. By showing them love and kindness, you are showing them that there is a way out of the vicious cycle of addiction and that when they are ready to, you are there for them and will support them.
Ultimately, the only person that can overcome an addiction to alcohol or drugs is the addict themselves. If they are not ready to make the decisions, there is very little that you can do other than remind them you are there when they do need you. However, it is important to make sure that you look after your own mental health and take care of yourself. Living with, or having a relationship with an addict can be very difficult, so make sure that you have the support that you need.