Drug addiction can be a silent problem: Those who are addicted rarely want to talk about it until they’ve reached rock bottom, and their loved ones may be scared or unsure how to breach the subject.
Whether it’s your best friend, parent or sibling, once you notice the signs of drug addiction, it can be hard to see anything else. While you may be concerned about their physical health, addiction can cause detrimental harm to one’s mental stability as well. Even a functioning addict can ruin their personal relationships, lose interest in their favorite hobbies and end up majorly in debt as their preferred drug becomes the main focus of their life.
First of all, if someone you care about is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, you can take comfort in knowing you are not alone. According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly 9 percent of Americans over age 12 were using illegal drugs as of 2010. In 2009, more than 23 million Americans were in need of treatment for substance abuse problems.
Addiction treatment options vary and include in-patient, outpatient and counseling services. Some treatment programs are specifically designed to address a particular addiction, such as opiates or alcohol, while others are all-encompassing. Keep in mind that every addict responds differently to different types of treatment, so if your first try doesn’t lead to recovery, don’t give up. Instead, attempt a new approach.
If you’ve made the decision that enough is enough and you want to confront a loved one about his or her addiction, it’s best to seek outside help, but the first steps toward recovery start with you and your loved one. Whichever treatment option you choose for your loved one, there are several ways to approach the subject that may help you maintain your own piece of mind as well as giving the best support you can for the person suffering the alcoholism or addiction.
Stop Enabling Them
Enabling comes in many forms, from giving your loved one money that you know will be spent on drugs to offering them a place to stay rent-free until they “get on their feet,” or even simply saying “it’s okay” when they act out due to being high. Once you stop giving your friend or family member tools that help fuel their addiction, they may begin to realize how severely their addiction is impacting their life and relationships.
Don’t Cut Them Out of Your Life
It may seem like a balancing act, but if you’re serious about helping your loved one overcome an addiction, do your best to find a middle ground between not enabling him or her yet remaining available and compassionate. Emotionally, both detaching yourself from the problem and encouraging their positive activities are vital when trying to help someone suffering through addiction.
If you let your emotions become tangled up in their addiction, you are likely to stress yourself out and will not be much help to your loved one. Addicts can be selfish, thinking only of their next fix, so it is important to let your loved one know that their addiction is a problem for you and other people in their life, not just themselves.
Guide, Rather Than Force, Them Towards Help and Treatment
Forcing an addict to seek treatment may do more harm than good. Instead, help get them started on the path to recovery. You may choose to start by repeating a positive message to them that rarely varies and that you say often, such as “I (or we) care a lot about you and want you to get help.”
When you finally confront your loved one about his or her addiction, it’s best not to fall into arguing, placing blame, reprimanding or using judgmental language. And remember that it’s normal for an addict, especially at the beginning of the recovery process, to outright deny that they have a problem or attempt to avoid the issue. They may try rationalizing, intellectualizing or distorting the problem in order to avoid the harsh reality of accepting their addiction and admitting they need help.
Again, don’t become discouraged if this happens. You can follow up the initial confrontation with a more subtle approach, such as handing them a book about recovery options or the phone number to a recovery hotline. Tell them that you’ll sit next to them while they make the call.
Encourage Them, but Don’t Have Any Expectations
Keep in mind that there is no quick fix for most addicts – prepare yourself for the long haul. Once they have agreed to seek help, remain actively involved in the process. For instance, you can drive them to their counseling appointments or call them daily if they’re in an in-patient facility. Help your loved stay busy with activities that don’t involve drugs or alcohol, such as going to see a movie, taking an art class, exercising or cooking family meals together. Keeping an addict busy can be tremendously beneficial in helping him or her get through the tough times as well as giving them a reason to recover.