It can be the hardest thing in the world when you discover that somebody you love suffers from a problem with addictions. It’s a huge problem in the United States, costing the country more than half a trillion dollars annually. Whether the addiction is alcohol, drugs, gambling or something else, the feeling that a loved one is a victim to a behavior they struggle to control can impact you and your family or friends hugely.
If you’ve found yourself in a situation where you have a loved one that needs help with their addiction, there are several steps that you can take to help them out. Here is a checklist that you go through if you are faced with what can only be an incredibly difficult situation.
Understand What Addiction Really Is
Addiction is such a unique experience that very few people fully come to accept it for what it really is: a disease. That puts addiction on the same level of chronic illness as something like diabetes, which is equally rooted in genes and the environment. It’s not about willpower — you don’t choose to have a disease. There are chemical changes in the brain’s pleasure system in addicts that mean they lose the ability to both control and satisfy their cravings. This powerful combination can explain how an addict can be aware of their disease but feel no long-lasting motivation to break it.
After you have understood what addiction is, you should try to educate yourself further. There will be a lot of anger, anxiety, confusion and helplessness felt by both yourself and your loved one suffering from addiction. Part of this education process could be attending alcoholics, narcotics, gamblers anonymous, etc. meetings, which can help you learn both from experts and those who have gone through addictions themselves. Family and friends are welcome to attend.
Understand Your Role
There are roles that you can have as a friend or family member of one suffering from addiction. It is very possible that you don’t play either of these roles, but it’s important to be aware.
- An enabler is an individual who makes excuses for the addict’s behavior and never talks directly about the problem or about the steps that should be taken to help stop the addiction. Enablers typically arise when an addict’s behavior is creating chaos and this behavior can destroy personal boundaries.
- Those who detach with love are considered by addiction groups to be the solution to those who enable. They allow the addict to make mistakes and learn from them instead of helping them avoid the consequences of their behavior. This can be tough initially, but experts suggest it is the best thing to do.
Attend Therapy Alongside Them
It can mean a lot to somebody suffering that their friends and family are there to support their recovery every step of the way. This includes going to support service groups with them as well as potentially seeking professional therapy. If you are a family member, family therapy is encouraged. Those who have meetings with therapists as a family will enjoy the benefits of opened communication and a safe environment for emotions to be expressed by both the addict and those around them. This therapy environment has also been suggested to prevent younger family members from making some mistakes or even suffering from the disease themselves.
Get in Contact With a Rehabilitation Expert
Recovery centers and rehabilitation clinics are known as the go-to solution for those suffering from addictions. Being in a stable environment with professionals at hand can be the best place for someone struggling to get a hand on their addiction. Before deciding on a center for you, however, ask them the following questions:
- What is your success rate one month after treatment?
- What is your success rate one year after treatment?
- Do you offer any services to help keep those in recovery ‘on track’?
- What evidence do you have to certify the effectiveness of your system?
Once you’ve asked these questions, you can start looking into the day-to-day goings-on of the clinic or center. A good center should make it easy to get in touch with them — for example, a recovery center in Utah has a 24-hour hotline to answer questions about addiction and treatment (click here if you’re a Utah resident that would benefit from that).
If your loved one is on course for recovery, it is really important that you then turn the focus on yourself. Having a loved one that suffers from addiction can be incredibly stressful and can cause sleepless nights and mixed emotions. You should reduce your stress and try to give yourself a bit of TLC, making sure you exercise enough, eat well and sleep enough too.
Dealing with such a painful emotional problem can be really difficult, so you need to acknowledge how commendable you are for trying to help and managing to deal with the stress.