Information for Loved Ones

When a loved one is showing signs of an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it can be an extremely difficult reality to face. In addition to being concerned about the health and wellbeing of a loved one, feelings of frustration and anger can also arise. It can be hard to understand why a person would continue to consciously put him or herself in harm’s way instead of simply ceasing his or her use of drugs or alcohol. In order to be of most help to a loved one who is battling an addiction, it is important to put one’s own negative feelings aside and instead place the sole focus on assisting the suffering individual in getting the help that he or she needs.

If you are a person who has a friend, family member, or other loved one who is suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you may be confused as to specific ways in which you can help him or her. The following are examples of ways that you can be of most benefit to your loved one:

  • Learn about addiction.

When a person is addicted to a substance, it means that he or she has developed a tolerance to and a dependency on his or her substance of choice. The longer that a person abuses a substance, the more likely it is that his or her body will become accustomed to the presence of the substance in his or her system, which is known as tolerance. The development of tolerance results in a person having to consume greater amounts of the substance or ingest the substance with greater frequency in order to achieve the desired effects. Once this tolerance has developed, the person’s body begins to become reliant on the presence of the substance in his or her system in order to continue functioning effectively. This is known as dependence. Physical dependence means that a person has developed an addiction and will subsequently experience a period of withdrawal should he or she attempt to discontinue use of his or her chosen drug. Additionally, the individual will experience specific symptoms that elicit a clinical diagnosis of a substance use disorder.

By understanding the progression of the disease of addiction, it can make it somewhat easier to understand why your loved one cannot simply stop using his or her drug of choice.

  • Become educated on the specific substance or substances that your loved one is addicted to.

Understanding the signs and symptoms that are indicative of different substance use disorders is important when determining the severity of your loved one’s problem. Additionally, it is important to learn about the effects that the ongoing use of that substance or substances can elicit. Furthermore, becoming educated on the signs, symptoms, and effects of overdose is imperative so that you can recognize such an occurrence and know the proper interventions to make.

  • Research various treatment options.

There are many different types of treatment options and levels of care available for individuals who are suffering from an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. Learning about the variety of options out there can help you determine which specific type of care may be most beneficial for your loved one. Additionally, researching the treatment interventions that have proven effectiveness in treating individuals who are suffering from the same type of addiction as your loved one can aid you in seeking out treatment centers that incorporate those particular interventions into the care they offer.

  • Do not throw away any substances that you find in your loved one’s possession.

If you come across alcohol, drugs, or drug paraphernalia in your loved one’s possession, throwing it away or getting rid of it can seem like an easy solution. Unfortunately, however, this will likely only serve to anger your loved one and cause him or her to lose trust in you. Furthermore, getting rid of substances will likely not prevent your loved one from continuing to use, but instead will force him or her to go to other extremes to obtain more of his or her drug of choice, as well as to take painstaking efforts to keep it a secret from you.

  • Talk to your loved one.

The thought of confronting your loved one regarding his or her addiction can be extremely intimidating. Even if you have thoroughly prepared yourself for the things you want to say, once you are actually in the situation, it is easy to become flustered. It is important to enter the conversation anticipating that your loved one will likely react in a negative manner. Defensiveness, anger, and hostility can often be the result of such confrontations. By expecting this response as opposed to being surprised by it, you can prepare yourself to respond in a calm manner.

It may seem as though your loved one wants to engage in an argument with you, as part of his or her hostile response. Do not let it get to that point. Allow your loved one to vent his or her anger and frustrations. Do not respond with your own anger but, instead, remain patient and nonjudgmental. If your loved one refuses to engage in the conversation, do not become frustrated. Allow him or her to have time to process the points that you made. Remain persistent, and continue to attempt to talk to him or her at a future time.

  • Help make receiving treatment possible.

Hopefully, your loved one will eventually come to a point where he or she is ready and willing to seek treatment. When this happens, make yourself available to assist him or her in any way possible. If there are certain logistics that could stand in your loved one’s way of being able to receive treatment, help arrange for those things to be taken care of. This can include anything from providing transportation, arranging for child care, taking care of household responsibilities, or making arrangements at your loved one’s school or place of employment. Additionally, your loved one will likely be apprehensive about the prospect of entering treatment, so it may be beneficial to offer to accompany him or her to any initial appointments or assessments that are scheduled. Doing so will not only demonstrate your support, but it can also help your loved one know that he or she is not alone.

  • Be an active part of your loved one’s recovery.

Many addiction treatment programs offer family therapy sessions for the loved ones of those who are in recovery. If the program that your loved one is participating in offers such sessions, make every effort possible to attend them. Also, make a point to check in regularly with your loved one. Calling him or her or sending notes and letters of encouragement can have a huge impact and offer him or her the consistent encouragement that he or she needs.

Furthermore, talk to your loved one’s treatment providers about ways in which you can encourage your loved one’s ongoing recovery once treatment has come to an end. It is important to understand that the road to recovery can a long one, full of obstacles along the way. By knowing how you, personally, can help your loved one stay on the right track, it can help encourage ongoing healing and prevent your loved one from relapsing.

  • Take care of yourself.

Oftentimes, when a person has a loved one who is suffering from an addiction, he or she may place all of his or her energy, time, and focus on helping that individual. While your help, support, and encouragement can make a world of difference, it is imperative that you also take time for yourself. If you become too wrapped up in your loved one’s care, your own health and wellbeing can begin to deteriorate. Taking care of yourself will serve to help you be of the most benefit to your loved one and his or her ongoing recovery. Exercise, if that is something that you enjoy, engage in hobbies that are uplifting to you, and make a conscious effort to get as much rest as you can. Additionally, seek out assistance from other important people in your loved one’s life. Your loved one’s care does not have to fall solely on your shoulders; by eliciting the help of others, it can serve to not only help you, but also to demonstrate to your loved one that he or she is surrounded by people who care.

If your son, daughter, mother, father, friend, or other loved one is suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, do not feel as though there is nothing you can do to help. Instead, take a proactive approach and help your loved one find the tools and develop the skills needed to achieve and maintain lasting sobriety.

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