Addiction is a disease impacting more than 23 million people across the nation. This number reflects those people who have either a substance use or alcohol use disorder. It does not take into account the millions of others who care about someone with an addiction. They too are deeply impacted by addiction. For anyone who loves someone with a substance use or alcohol use disorder, life can be painful. Knowing what to do to help the person you care about can seem a never-ending search for answers. But, there are steps you can take to help both the addict in your life and yourself.
Caring about a person with an active, untreated addiction, whether to an illicit or prescription substance or alcohol, is full of uncertainty, anxiety, and often turmoil. Sleepless nights are spent wondering where they are, if they’ll call or come home, and hoping they will be okay. Some days you just want to give up. But you just can’t. Exhaustion sets in from the lack of sleep, worry, and the hours spent caring for them—at the expense of your own well being.
If you know someone in need of alcohol addiction help or help for a substance abuse issue, Futures Recovery Healthcare is here for you.
What to Do If You Love Someone with Addiction Issues
Addiction is a complex disease. Attempting to help someone with an addiction issue is also complex. Many times all the energy and focus is on the person who needs help with addiction. Trying to figure out what will make them change, seek help, or just stop their self-destructive ways. However, taking care of oneself can be one of the best things you can do to help. This may seem counterintuitive, but it is often the very thing you need to do. The hard truth is that you cannot change anyone but yourself. Taking an honest look at yourself and what you can do to take care of yourself is vital.
Addiction is a family disease and every member of the family is impacted to one degree or another. ‘Family’ isn’t limited to people to whom you are biologically related. If you have a relationship—romantic or otherwise—with someone who has a SUD or AUD you too are affected by their disease.
One of the first things you can do to help them is to help yourself. It’s like the analogy so often told about being on an airplane. You must first put the oxygen mask on yourself then on your child. The same is true when it comes to loving someone with an addiction issue. If you take care of yourself, you will be a better support and most suited to help them—even though the ‘help’ may not be what you are used to doing.
Addressing Feelings Associated with Addiction
Oftentimes our surface feelings and behaviors are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. These emotions and actions tend to hide other deeper feelings. Feelings that we may feel are too difficult to deal with or feelings we believe we shouldn’t be experiencing. However, if you want to help the person you care about in addiction, It is essential to deal with the array of feelings you have. This will help you to begin to not only heal yourself from the pain and damage caused by SUDs and AUDs but also to change some of your own destructive behaviors. Often, without fully knowing, your behaviors may not be helping the person you love who has an addiction.
It’s vital to know that in no way are you responsible for any choices another person makes. But often, people realize they are unknowingly doing things that make it easier for a person in active addiction to continue on their path.
Feeling such as anger, shame, and self-pity are all common. You are angry at the person you love for hurting themselves, you, other family members, and for stealing your peace of mind and happiness. In addition, many feel shame about having a family member or loved one with a SUD or AUD. There may also be shame involved if you blame yourself in any way for contributing to enabling the person you love. Shame and blame are destructive. Coming to terms with these feelings is the first step in letting them go.
Accepting these feelings, working through them, and moving forward with healthy coping skills will help not only you to find strength and some peace of mind, but also help you to develop healthier habits and set boundaries with the addict in your life. Once you begin to face and work through difficult feelings you can begin to transform them into more positive, helpful ones.
Compassion and Understanding: Key Components for Helping Someone with Addiction
Seeking professional help to work through many of these uncomfortable feelings is highly recommended for anyone who loves someone with an addiction issue. Even if you think you’re doing ‘okay’, the advice and care of someone who is professionally trained to help can make all the difference.
Just as the family is impacted by addiction, the family is crucial in recovery should your loved one decide to get help for addiction. When you are able to work through the hard feelings, you can transform these into feelings that are more helpful for everyone.
According to Psychology Today, showing true compassion and understanding to anyone with an addiction issue is vital to helping them in the long run. Not only that, but according to science, showing compassion to others is actually good for you.
One of the ways compassion helps is when it comes to shame. Shame and addiction are closely connected. Research reveals that many people who have an addiction issue also experience shame. Not only is there shame associated with the choices made in addiction, people with addiction issues, whether to alcohol or another substance, often have shame associated with their childhood.
It has been shown that many who have a SUD or AUD have experienced trauma as a child resulting in shame. Compassion and understanding help to create an environment of healing, a place where shame can be left behind. In this empathetic place, many can finally face their ‘demons’ and deeper issues associated with addiction.
And while it is not for you to ‘fix’ or ‘heal’ your loved one, healing yourself so you can support them should they choose to get help for addiction can make all the difference.
Three Ways to Help Someone with Addiction
Recovery from alcohol addiction or drug addiction is a very personal journey. You may desperately want your loved one to get alcohol addiction help or drug addiction help yet they are not ready. Sometimes having that conversation can be daunting. But there are steps you can take to talk with your loved one about what’s going on and offer support.
- Talking One on One
Having an open conversation with them about getting help can start the dialogue and often plant the seed for rehab. Approaching this conversation from a place of compassion and understanding is essential. First, plan a time where you can be alone with them and won’t be interrupted. Then tell them you’re concerned and ask them if they are willing to listen to your thoughts and concerns. If they are not open to it, do not press further. However, if they are, share your worries and cite a few specifics. If they are defensive, drop it and let them know you’re there for them to talk about it again. If they are open, talk about how and where they can get professional help. It’s important to come into the conversation with a few places in mind for rehab or to learn more. Futures’ admissions and outreach team are well versed in assessing potential patients and finding the best rehab fit for them—even if it’s not one of the three Futures’ programs.
- Plan an Intervention
After attempting to speak one on one, if your loved one did not respond well and you think they may be in immediate danger, you can attempt to have an intervention. Interventions are carefully planned meetings with your loved one and family and friends. In addition to these attendees, it’s highly suggested to have someone familiar with addiction there as well. This can be someone you or they know who is in recovery from addiction or a professionally trained alcohol or drug counselor. During this meeting, all people there talk to the person about their concerns and ask them to get help. It’s also important during an intervention to show compassion and empathy. Don’t make the person feel cornered or trapped. Also, have any resources available and be prepared to take the next steps if they are responsive and want to get help. It’s important to do a little homework before an intervention. Finding addiction treatment center options that address your loved ones specific needs is a good idea. For example, co-occurring disorders are common with an AUD or SUD. if you suspect your loved one may have a co-occurring disorder be sure anywhere you suggest they go for treatment addresses this.
- Stay Involved
Involvement with someone who has an addiction issue can be difficult. What this involvement looks like for everyone and each situation is different. It’s vital to take care of yourself and well being before anything else. Then you can establish boundaries and define for yourself what ‘staying involved’ looks like. For some, this can be keeping in regular contact with your loved one, and for others, it may mean ending contact but continuing to pray for them.If your loved one seeks treatment, staying involved during this time is crucial. The family can be a vital support system for anyone in recovery. Some treatment centers involve the family from the start and provide support for them as well. Futures promotes family involvement in the recovery process. Their two-day Family Intensive program is for all families with someone in treatment there. During this time therapy and educational sessions create a foundation for family support and recovery for all.
There’s no doubt that loving someone who needs alcohol addiction help or substance addiction help is painful. Life can seem bleak and sleepless nights turn into sleep-deprived months. However, there is hope and help for anyone who has an addiction problem—to alcohol or another substance. Learn more about how you can help someone with addiction and if Futures Recovery Healthcare is a good fit. Contact us online or call 866-804-2098.