Addiction to drugs or alcohol is dangerous for the user, but equally hard on those who love him or her. Watching someone you care about struggle with substance abuse is one of the hardest things you might have to go through.
You may worry over his or her safety and well-being, and wonder whether they’ll ever get help. You may want to talk to this person about your feelings and concerns, but feel like there is never a right time, or like they are not listening. If you don’t understand the nature of addiction, you may also feel anger, sadness, and frustration that your loved one won’t quit, or seems unwilling to even try.
Rest assured that all you are feeling is normal, and that your loved one can still have a good outcome, even with a longstanding addiction. If you’re 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
You may feel as though your loved one isn’t trying to change, or that he isn’t listening when you try to broach the subject of quitting his 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 in an effort to feel better.
Mental addiction is usually also at play. The addict feels and truly believes that he needs the drugs or alcohol he is using. 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 he wants to.
You Did Not Cause the Addiction
Even if you once poured him a glass of wine at a party once several years ago. Even if you used to smoke pot alongside him. You didn’t cause the addiction. In the end, only the addict made the decision to start using. This is almost never done with the concept of addiction or dependency in mind, but they still made the choice to light that first joint, inject that first dose, or take that first pill. In some cases, this may be due to chronic pain and use of prescription medications. In other cases, illegal drugs are the culprit. In either event, you were not the cause.
The addict may try and make you feel as though you are partly to blame. They may say you cause them stress or make him or her want to use. They may get angry or even violent if you try and stop them from using. Remember that it’s the addiction talking, not the truth. You cannot be proactive in helping your loved one recover if you are wracked with your own unjustified guilt.
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Approach with Concern
How to approach someone with an addiction?
Approach someone with an addiction with love and concern so you can successfully convince him to seek professional help. Don’t approach the addict with accusations and blame, as this might only lead to further depression.
Even though you are probably angry and feel let down by the addict, do not approach him with accusations and blame. Odds are, he already feels horrible about the way his life has turned out, and blaming him for his actions will only lead to further depression. If your goal is for him to get professional help, then approach him with love and concern. Let him know that you want what’s best for him and that you want to support him during recovery. You may tell him how the addiction has changed him, and the worries you have for him, and your relationship. Do this during a time when he seems receptive, if possible. If it isn’t, then be compassionate and honest. You may have to approach him several times before he agrees to seek treatment.
Understand the Rehabilitation Process
More than likely, you won’t be able to have much contact with your loved one during the initial stages of rehab. Even though you want to be there to help, this is a good thing. Although you may be close, having you around would create an unneeded distraction during the most crucial parts of his recovery and detoxification. Rest assured that he is in good hands, and that you have chosen the right rehab facility to meet his needs. After the initial phases are over, you will probably be asked to visit, and you may be asked to attend family counseling sessions. This will give you a chance to discuss any issues you may have, or talk about how the addiction has affected your life.
Become a Support System
How do I support a recovering addict?
You can support a recovering addict by helping them to avoid temptations, talking and listening to them, or doing fun and relaxing activities with them. Your help and support throughout their adjustment to sober life is 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 in order to maintain healthy habits learned while inside. You should be available to talk, listen, and support your loved one during this transition, and throughout your relationship. You can also help him avoid temptation in some cases. This may mean bypassing that glass of wine you’d normally have with dinner on your anniversary, or planning relaxing and fun activities to do during his downtime so he isn’t tempted to socialize with user friends.
Relapses happen. Spending time in an inpatient facility lowers the risk, but there is no guarantee that your loved one will stay the course. He may feel guilt or shame by this, but you can offer gentle encouragement and direction to get him back on track. A relapse doesn’t have to mean permanent failure. If he got clean once, he can do it again. With you by his side throughout the process, success will be far more likely.
How can I protect myself if I’m living with an addict?
If you are living with an addict, don’t let yourself be pulled into the addict’s world. If you’re threatened, manipulated, or endangered, seek professional help and distance yourself if necessary.
Although your support is necessary and crucial for recovery, do not let yourself be pulled into the addict’s world. Your mental health is also important. If you feel threatened, used, manipulated, or otherwise endangered in his presence, seek professional counseling and distance yourself until you can re-engage safely.