5 Ways to Help Your Loved One With an Addiction
Watching a loved one struggle with addiction is extremely challenging. An addiction can take over one’s life, affecting them physically and emotionally. Addicts often find themselves losing friends, struggling to keep their job, and facing constant conflicts with family members. Addiction is a serious illness that can often be very isolating. Due to addiction being a misunderstood illness and the fact that addicts often try to hide their issues, it can be challenging to help someone who’s struggling. As you would with any illness, be kind and supportive of your loved one. Don’t be too hard on them, and help them the best way you can without enabling them. Gently recommend a substance abuse program without being forceful. Remember, it takes time. You won’t recognize changes in your loved one overnight, but with gradual care and support, you can help them toward a path of healing.
Don’t Be Hard On Them
First and foremost, don’t be hard on your loved one. It can be frustrating to watch someone harm themselves with addiction, but you must stay positive. Criticizing and shaming won’t help; it will only cause setbacks. No matter how angry you feel, avoid the natural tendency to show your frustrations. This is not an easy process, but it’s crucial when interacting with someone who struggles with addiction.
The next step is to offer support where you can. Whether this is calling each night to provide them a listening ear or helping them with their resume to find work, be there when you can. Addiction can be very isolating. Addicts often unintentionally push others away, but then are very overwhelmed by their loneliness. This is a nasty cycle that can further strengthen the addiction.
Don’t Be an Enabler
With addicts, there is a fine line between offering support and enabling the addiction. For example, you might think constantly offering your loved one a ride home is a supportive measure that prevents them from drinking and driving. While you may be protecting them from harm, you are also enabling their addiction. In a way, you are telling them their drinking habit is ok and that you’ll always be there to drive them home when they are intoxicated.
If you notice yourself ignoring or minimizing your loved one’s behaviors, you could be enabling their addiction. If you find yourself making excuses for them or attempting to hide their addiction from others, this is also enabling. Providing help out of fear (i.e., driving them home all the time so they don’t drink and drive), you enable their addiction. This is why helping a family member with addiction is so challenging. The line between supporting and enabling is often gray and fuzzy, and it can be challenging to know what to do in any given situation.
When it comes to helping someone with an addiction, patience is key. Addicts are often in denial and don’t recognize that they have a problem. It’s important to understand that until an addict admits they have a problem, it will be very difficult to convince them to get help. As a friend or family member, you must practice patience. Understand that things will likely get worse before they get better. You might experience your loved one hitting rock bottom before they even admit they have a problem. Sometimes an addict will hit rock bottom and still be in denial. You must stick by their side even during the most tumultuous of times. If you feel yourself getting frustrated or angry, try practicing this simple mantra: “Patience is a virtue.”
Recommend Substance Abuse Programs
Recommending a substance abuse program to a loved one struggling with addiction can be a touchy subject. Sometimes the person struggling with addiction can get defensive and will not be receptive to your suggestion of professional help. However, letting them know about different substance abuse treatment programs can often plant the seed in their minds. Maybe they don’t seek help tomorrow, next week, or even next month - but with your gentle encouragement, they at least know the option is available. According to a survey done by SAMHSA, in 2012, there were 23 million people who needed treatment for a substance abuse problem, but out of those, only 2.5 million of them received treatment. This shows how many people struggling with addiction have not yet sought out help even though it’s needed.
Once your loved one shows interest in attending a substance abuse program, help them research programs to figure out what works best for them. Whether it’s attending an intensive inpatient program or a more flexible outpatient program, be there to help them make the best decision possible.
Helping someone you love who has an addiction can be exhausting, and it’s essential that you are making time to take care of yourself. Self-care looks different for everyone. Practicing yoga, taking a bath, cooking a healthy dinner, or watching your favorite show on Netflix are all great self-care methods. Pick what works for you and give yourself some downtime each day. You will better be able to support your loved one if you first take care of yourself.
Loving someone with an addiction can be difficult. It’s hard to watch someone you love struggle. Loved ones are often left feeling helpless. The best way to help someone with an addiction is to love them and be supportive without enabling their addiction. Practice patience and be there for them the best way you can. Gently guide them toward getting professional treatment, but continue being patient even if they deny help at first. For more information about substance abuse programs and how we can help your loved one, contact The Bridges of San Diego today.