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You can’t control your loved one’s addiction, nor can you control your loved one. So what can you do to help a family who is suffering from an addiction?
Dealing with a family member who has a drug addiction may seem like a losing battle. It’s stressful and difficult, and it requires an incredible amount of patience and tough love. However, family members play an integral role in the recovery process and help with everything from learning about support groups, finding rehab treatment programs, and providing transportation to appointments.
The process may seem daunting, but there are certain tips to better equip family members to help their loved one without losing track of their own health. Here are ten of them recommended by recovery professionals.
Remember That It’s a Chronic Disease
Addiction is a chronic disease. Alzheimers, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease are examples of chronic diseases. Imagine trying to take care of someone with any of those diseases without any knowledge or support at all. The same is true for addiction. You’d want to learn about the disease, encourage your loved one to seek professional treatment from a medical provider, perhaps you’d attend the medical visit with your loved one, and support them throughout the process by following the professional’s advice and seeking additional support from professionals throughout the process. Addiction should be treated in the same manner.
Learn About the Disease
Just as you would with other chronic diseases, it’s helpful to learn as much about the disease as possible, including signs to look out for if you think someone might have a drug use problem, the social and chemical changes to the brain that lead to addiction, and why your loved one may not be able to quit as easily as you’d like.
Education is a powerful tool. Take advantage of online resources, your public library, speaking to your physician, and support groups. The more you learn about what addiction treatment options are available, where to find help, how the drug being abused negatively affects the choices the user makes, and how to take care of your own health throughout the process, the more equipped you are for a successful recovery journey for both you and your loved one.
Provide Support That’s Not Enabling
Many family members struggle between providing help verses enabling the addictive behavior. This is normal because this process is complicated. Do not allow the addict to take advantage of your kindness: this is an enabling behavior. Many family members exhibit enabling behavior, or behavior that makes it comfortable for the addict to use, only because they don’t know what else to do, not because they want to support the behavior.
You must be willing to show tough love. One suggestion is to practice detachment with love, meaning you can support your loved one but no longer shield them from the consequences of their poor choices.
You Need Support, Too
Helping a family member with addiction get his/her life back on track is a rewarding experience; it’s also exhausting. There are several others who are involved in the same process, and providing support to one another is important. Addiction will affect you just as it is affecting the person suffering from the disease. Professional counseling and support groups for family members trying to help their loved ones through the recovery process are available and recommended. Taking care of your mental and physical health is an important part of the process. Find time to do the things that bring you a sense of calm and joy. You cannot forget to take care of you.
*Al-Anon/Alateen is an example of a support group for anyone dealing with the chaos caused by a loved one’s drinking or drug use. Attendance is free and open. Find an Al-Anon/Alateen meeting near you.
Your Loved One Needs Professional Help
Just as an individual suffering from diabetes wouldn’t manage well without the treatment of medical professionals, the same is true for those dealing with addiction. Anyone dealing with addiction needs professionals who can actually treat the disease, not just provide support for dealing with it. The addict will most likely need your help in finding the proper treatment.
Treatment may involve various psychological therapies, medically-supervised detoxification, support groups, and more.
Encourage Treatment Participation
Not only is it important for you and your loved one to find professional treatment, your loved one will need help securing the appointment and attending the treatment. Encouraging participation in treatment can be a difficult hill to climb as people can avoid rehab for a variety of reasons.
Family unity and support is important during this process. If a child is involved, it can help to have the child explain to the addict how the substance abuse issue affects his/her life. Other family members can point out legal and/or financial problems caused by the addiction.
Combat the Stigma
If you mention to other family members, co-workers, or friends that someone you love is dealing with an addiction, it’s common to deal with the stigma that is often associated with the disease: shame, guilt, and embarrassment. Not only does the addict live with such stigmas, but those helping the addict in their recovery do as well. Do your best to ignore or combat them. Combat them with education; misunderstandings can cause unneeded sadness and stress. When family members avoid or combat stigmas, they can focus on supporting one another and the addict rather than dealing with unnecessary noise.
Treat Addiction as a Family Disease
One of the most challenging aspects of working with a family member who has an addiction is managing family dynamics as a whole. Family members feel overwhelmed, stressed, and traumatized at times, and each person deals with the process differently.
Oftentimes, the non-addicted family members will take on certain roles to cope and survive. Some will become the protector, another may become the family hero, one will become the forgotten child, another will become the persecutor, and another the blamer. As family members deal with the addicted-family member in his/her own way, it will create additional stress among the unit as a whole and can polarize a family.
Try to stay connected and work as a team. Not only is this more helpful for the addict, but it’s also important for everyone’s physical and mental well-being. Try to have meals together as a family as often as possible to reconnect after stressful days. Family therapy is a helpful tool as well. You all want the same ending: it’s important to work together.
Holding an Intervention
When some hear the word “intervention” they associate it with some type of dramatic or scary event. It should not be that way. A proper intervention is full of compassion and healthy dialogue. Families can research top intervention strategies online or by contacting a professional recovery facility like Beach House who offers intervention program services.
There are even certified, trained interventionists who are available to help families communicate compassionately and effectively with their loved one in an effort to convince them to seek professional help. They’re knowledgeable and add credibility to the conversation. They make it easier for family members to have this type of discussion.
Be Mindful of Expectations
It’s normal to get excited when someone with addiction begins his/her recovery journey. Finally, it seems, things are starting to look up. The truth is that the recovery process is full of ups and downs. It’s never linear. Although it’s normal and okay to feel hope and excitement, it’s also important to remember that setbacks are a part of the process.
The addiction recovery process involves altering behaviors as much as it does re-aligning brain chemicals. It may take a while to see behavioral changes. During family events, family members might expect the recovering addict to participate in dinners, events, and holiday celebrations, but that individual may not be ready for that.
Recovery is a process, and people in recovery will make mistakes. Be patient and enjoy the time together even if it isn’t perfect yet.
The Process Is Worth It
Yes, it’s a daunting process, but there’s help, support, hope, and good news for you and your loved one: like other chronic diseases, addiction can be managed successfully. And it’s worth it. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, most people who get addiction treatment not only stop using drugs, they also improve their occupational, social and psychological functioning.
Remember that this is not a path you have to or should walk alone. Professional rehab centers & recovery facilities provide support for the addicted person and the family. The Beach House is trained and ready to provide information to help you as you help your family member.