10 Ways to Help a Loved One with a Drug Addiction
If someone you love has a drug addiction, you probably have a lot of questions about the addiction itself and treatment like drug rehab. Here are 10 ways to help your loved one when struggling with substance abuse. For more information please call us anytime at 1-800-582-0709
- Get educated about addiction
- Offer support but do not enable
- Avoid supporting the addiction financially
- Establish boundaries and stick to them
- To help them, you must help yourself
- Don't let their addiction struggles take over your life
- Avoid lecturing/guilt/intimidation as a way of coping
- Look into professional treatment and drug rehab services for them
- Encourage them to seek help
- Be involved in the drug rehab treatment and recovery process
Get educated about addiction
Take the time to learn more about the nature and behavior of drug addiction. Addiction is much more than substance abuse of things like cocaine, alcohol, marijuana or prescription drugs. it can be a behavior that's usually due to some underlying emotional issue, chemical imbalance or other disorder that causes a person to act a certain way or to self-medicate.
People with such behaviors can be addicted to just about anything in an unhealthy way - whether it's sex, exercise, work, eating or a substance. And when someone is addicted to something, there are often co-occurring disorders at play such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, obsessive compulsiveness or eating disorders.
Once a person becomes addicted to a substance or behavior, the continuing use and abuse is more about homeostasis rather than getting "high." As time goes on, the perceived benefits of that behavior or substance that originally lured them in usually fades away, but the need and impulse remains.
Treatment programs like drug rehab work to treat the underlying causes of addictive behaviors. That's why drug rehabilitation can be so instrumental to causing life-altering behaviors and constructive, positive changes.
Offer support but do not enable
Enabling a family member's addiction comes in many forms – some of which you may not think are enabling, but are. It's important to recognize the behaviors and actions you and your family are carrying out that allow your drug-addicted loved one to remain in this destructive state.
Enabling can be anything from letting the addicted family member live in your home and abuse substances or carry on with these behaviors while there, or it could be something as simple as making excuses for the person.
Denying someone you love basic care or dignity may seem like a very cruel act. But it takes a lot of love to understand your enabling behavior and take steps to stop it. In the end, these actions can help your loved one on the road to recovery.
Just as important as recognizing enabling behavior is an understanding that now is not the time for blame. Now is the time for action.
Avoid supporting the addiction financially.
This is also a form of enabling, and rears its head in different ways. When a drug-addicted family member asks you for money, has you pay their bills or even lives in your home rent-free, this may be enabling their addiction.
Your loved one may give many reasons why they are asking you for money, but unfortunately, all paths likely lead to supporting the drug abuse financially.
Establish boundaries and stick to them.
Once you have decided that you are no longer going to take part in your loved one's drug addiction – that you are no longer going to enable them because you love them, yourself and your family too much – then you have to set boundaries.
Coming to that point is probably one of the hardest things to do. Enforcing those boundaries is just as hard. First, make sure your boundaries are realistic. Are you serious about them? Are you really willing to follow through on any boundaries you set?
Next, knowing why you are settings boundaries is also important. If the boundary is set in place to protect you and your family, that's a healthier motive than using the boundary to try and control or change the behavior of the addicted family member.
Whatever boundary you set, know that your loved one may react to these boundaries in different ways, and it can be very emotional to "stick to your guns."
To help them, you must help yourself.
You might not know this, but the recovery and healing process is as much for your loved one as it is for you and your family. Drug addiction affects family relationships and each family member of an addict/alcoholic in different ways.
Emotions and behaviors surrounding the addiction run deep within a family. The complicated nature of addiction can require education and therapy for everyone in the recovery process.
We always recommend family members take part in our family program. Once the client has completed drug addiction treatment, we recommend the family continue working with support programs through organizations like Al-Anon, Nar-anon, Alateen, Co-Dependents Anonymous, as well as forms of family therapy when needed.
Don't let their addiction struggles take over your life.
Sometimes a loved one's addiction can consume your life to the point of it swallowing you and your family whole. You can still love the addict/alcoholic in your family while at the same time caring for yourself and other family members who might be caught up in the situation as well. You do this by carrying on with your regular life, work and interests; taking time to care for yourself.
Try first getting involved in free support groups like the organizations we mentioned previously (Al-Anon and the like). You can look into therapy. It does help to talk to someone. These things can help you get a better understanding of how to cope and protect your family. Remember, you are not responsible for their addiction. Do your best, and that's all you can do.
Avoid lecturing/guilt/intimidation as a way of coping.
An addiction is a disease that requires professional help, counseling and lots of work to uncover the underlying causes of the behavior. Complicated family relationships and issues are sometimes a factor in the destructive behavior.
Making your loved one feel hurt, scared or undermined can only aggravate the situation and cause a vicious cycle of more self-medication – especially if the person is not willing to admit they have a problem yet. Drug treatment requires love, support and empathy, but also willingness on the part of the addict/alcoholic.
Look into professional treatment and drug rehab services for them.
Your loved one likely doesn't even know where to begin or what options are out there for them to get help. In fact, it's likely they may not even want to hear about them.
If they're not ready for a change, any option you present is likely to be shot down. If they are ready, it may seem simply too exhausting for them to have to research their options.
This is where you can be of service by seeing what's out there for treatment first, so you can make educated suggestions when the time is right. There are many methods of treatment, and it's important to keep this in mind before choosing a drug rehab facility to explore.
One of the more popular methods is the 12-step program. At Cirque Lodge, we believe every addiction and person is unique, and we tailor treatment accordingly. So while we are founded on the 12-steps, we also integrate effective forms of clinical therapies into a mind, body and spirit approach to help a person become healthy from the inside out. Understanding treatment approaches is the key to your loved one's success in that program.
Also, there is an alternative to helping someone who is in a downward spiral whom you believe must seek help very soon, whether they want to or not. This is what is called intervention. Interventions can require planning, because there are many layers to successfully staging it.
It is recommended that you speak with a professional if you believe you need an intervention for your loved one. We can help you with information on intervention services from many of the leading interventionists available.
Encourage them to seek help.
Trust is a key factor in this step. In Step 7, we talked about love and support replacing intimidation and guilt. Once you have established that approach, encouragement comes next.
While some drug rehab centers and support groups utilize the "tough love" approach, we believe you can get just as far or further with encouragement. You may be asking yourself at this point, how can you love and encourage while at the same time setting boundaries and looking out for yourself first?
When healthy boundaries are set and you are putting you first, you are more able to freely share love and empathy. You've made the decision to not let that person harm you or take advantage of you or whatever the boundary is you've set.
Once any negative feelings and emotions about the person or situation have taken a back seat, you can begin to take a more objective approach to the problem and motivate them to start getting help.
Be involved in the drug rehab treatment and recovery process.
Healing from alcoholism and drug addiction is everyone's responsibility. If a drug-addicted family member is on the road to recovery, but you or the family has not taken steps to be a part of the healing process, this can actually hinder your loved one's progress. Support through this process is essential. Utilizing a family program and therapy can be a means to facilitate the healing process.
Oftentimes, addiction is deep-seeded in family issues and learned behaviors that stem from within the home. If an addicted person is trying to break the cycle and change their behavior, it's very hard if the family has not also begun working through their own issues surrounding the problems in the home.