When A Loved One Has An Addiction
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Addiction to drugs or alcohol is dangerous for the user but equally hard on those who love him or her. It is always hard to see how the loved ones self-destruct themselves, as well as all the things it is related to what they might have to go through.
A person may worry over a loved one’s safety and well-being, and wonder whether they’ll ever get help. One may want to talk to this person about the feelings and concerns, but feel like there is never a right time, or like they are not listening. If one doesn’t understand the nature of addiction, it is common to feel anger, sadness, and frustration that the loved one won’t quit, or seems unwilling even to try.
Rest assured that all one is feeling is normal, and that the loved one can still have a good outcome, even with a longstanding addiction. If a person is feeling stressed or confused about what to do, or where to turn, keep a few things in mind:
Addiction Is A Physical Disorder As Well As A Mental One
One may feel as though the loved one isn’t trying to change, isn’t listening when one tries to broach the subject of quitting a substance of choice. While it may seem like outright defiance or hesitancy, it probably isn’t. Addiction affects the user on many levels, and simply quitting isn’t usually an option.
Addiction is a physical dependency on a substance. The user’s body reacts badly when the substance isn’t used for sometimes as little as a few hours, but usually always within a day. Severe and even life-threatening reactions can occur. Addicts will do almost anything to acquire their drug of choice before these side effects can take their toll to feel better.
Mental addiction is usually also at play. The addicts feel and truly believe that they need drugs or alcohol. The addict feels as though they have to get more or something bad will happen.
This combination of factors often leaves the person feeling helpless to stop, even if they want to.
One Is Not A Cause Of Addiction
Even if a person once poured a glass of wine at a party several years ago. Even if one used to smoke pot alongside. One didn’t cause the addiction. In the end, only the addict decided to start using. This is rarely done with the concept of addiction or dependency in mind, but they still chose a light that the first joint, inject that first dose, or take that first pill.
In some cases, this may be due to chronic pain and the use of prescription medications. In other cases, illegal drugs are the culprit. In either event, one was not the cause.
The addict may try and make one feels as though they are partly to blame. They may blame other people in the stress they experiencing. They may get angry or even violent if one tries and stops them from using drugs. Remember that it’s the addiction talking, not the truth. One cannot be proactive in helping the loved one recover being wracked with own unjustified guilt.
Approach with Concern
Approach someone with addiction with love and concern so to successfully convince them to seek professional help. Don’t approach the addict with accusations and blame, as this might only lead to further depression.
Even though one is probably angry and feels let down by the addict, do not approach them with accusations and blame. Odds are, they already feel horrible about the way their life has turned out, and blaming them for their actions will only lead to further depression. If a goal is for them to get professional help, then approach them with love and concern. It is critical to communicate to an addict that the best option is treatment and that support is always here during recovery. One may tell an addict how the addiction has changed them, and the worries one has. Do this during a time when they seem receptive, if possible. If it isn’t, then be compassionate and honest. One may have to approach them several times before they agree to seek treatment.
Understand the Rehabilitation Process
More than likely, one won’t be able to have much contact with the loved one during the initial stages of rehab. Even though one wants to be there to help, this is a good thing. Although one may be close, having one around would create an unneeded distraction during the most crucial parts of his recovery and detoxification. Rest assured that an addict is in good hands, and that one has chosen the right rehab facility to meet his needs. After the initial phases are over, one will probably be asked to visit, and an addict may be asked to attend family counseling sessions. This will give a chance to discuss any issues one may have, or talk about how the addiction has affected one’s life.
Become a Support System
One can support a recovering addict by helping them to avoid temptations, talking, and listening to them, or doing fun and relaxing activities with them. Help and support throughout their adjustment to a sober life are essential for them to maintain lifelong sobriety.
When someone leaves rehab, having a strong and committed support network is vital for recovery. Adjusting to life without drugs or alcohol outside the confined of a rehabilitation center is often disorienting for recovering addicts, and it may take time to develop a schedule and routine to maintain healthy habits learned while inside. One should be available to talk, listen, and support the loved one during this transition, and throughout the relationship. One can also help him avoid temptation in some cases. This may mean bypassing that glass of wine one’d normally have with dinner on the anniversary or planning relaxing and fun activities to do during his downtime, so they are not tempted to socialize with user friends.
Relapses happen. Spending time in an inpatient facility lowers the risk, but there is no guarantee that the loved one will stay the course. They may feel guilt or shame by this, but one can offer gentle encouragement and direction to get them back on track. A relapse doesn’t have to mean permanent failure. If they got clean once, they could do it again. With one by their side throughout the process, success will be far more likely.
If one is living with an addict, don’t let oneself be pulled into the addict’s world. If one is threatened, manipulated, or endangered, seek professional help and distance oneself if necessary.
Although one’s support is necessary and crucial for recovery, do not let oneself be pulled into the addict’s world. Mental health is also important. If one feels threatened, used, manipulated, or otherwise endangered in his presence, seek professional counseling and distance oneself until one can re-engage safely.
- Laudet A. B., Savage R., Mahmood D. Pathways to long-term recovery: a preliminary investigation. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 2002; 34(3): 305–311. doi:10.1080/02791072.2002.10399968. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1852519/.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. Common Comorbidities with Substance Use Disorders. 2018. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-1-connection-between-substance-use-disorders-mental-illness.
- Lyvers M. Drug addiction as a physical disease: the role of physical dependence and other chronic drug-induced neurophysiological changes in compulsive drug self-administration. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. 1998; 6(1): 107-25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9526151.
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