We see the consequences of our fast-paced life everywhere: in the eyes of an exhausted single mom, a busy entrepreneur rushing to the fifth meeting of the day, and the early riser who tends to their ill parents. They all have their struggles, some of them dealing with depression, insomnia, or anxiety, but there are those who sink far deeper into the chasm of stress and chaos. If you know someone in your closest circle or a loved one who is dealing with addiction, the worst thing you could possibly do is stay silent or step aside.
It will be a long, difficult, and most likely a painful journey for you and the person who needs your help, but people who are struggling with addiction need your full support and help in overcoming these issues and giving themselves a chance to truly heal. So, here’s what you can do:
While some addicts are very good at hiding their issue, once it becomes obvious due to their changing demeanor and physical appearance, you need to make sure they’re more than just aware of the problem. They need to verbalize and admit to being addicted. The very act of recognition is a huge step towards healing, although definitely not the only or the determining one. One of the best ways to help them acknowledge their problem is to have a genuine conversation on your own, or with other close family members present.
Sometimes they might not be ready to face the issue, they might be and probably are embarrassed, terrified, and their mind and body are doing whatever they can to sustain the negative behavior. While your loved one won’t benefit from harsh criticism, yelling, or emotional outbursts, you still need to be consistent, frim, and loving with your approach. If stress was the initial culprit of their behavior, causing more of it will not lead to healing, but reinforce their addition – hence the need to show them love and kindness.
The most vital step in the process from your own perspective is that you need to accept that you cannot heal an addict. Your role may be pivotal in their journey towards recovery, but you still need to understand that you cannot decide anything for an addict or force them to make a decision. Instead, in addition to building trust through regular conversations, you need to talk about their best options when it comes to professional treatment.
The modern forms of therapy are becoming more and more customized, especially since we now know that genetics plays a vital role in addiction, so hopefully, we’ll see more personalized and genetics-based recovery programs in the near future. That means that modern recovery systems take into account what each individual needs in terms of medication, support, behavioral treatment, and therapy to have the greatest chance of succeeding. You can help your loved one find the best option, and be there by their side on this long journey.
No matter how much you’d like to help, there’s a fine line between helping and enabling. On the one hand, you should make sure that your loved one is aware of the impact their behavior has on you and your relationship. More often than not, addicts will avoid change unless they know that there will be consequences, and you need to have another honest conversation about your own role in their recovery.
On the other hand, you also need to take care of yourself, and not spend every waking moment micromanaging your friend in need. This will not only be counterproductive for their recovery, but also very unhealthy for your own wellbeing. There’s no room for self-blame, and if you find yourself struggling with guilt, don’t be afraid to also seek out therapy and support. Above all, do what makes you happy and continue building your own life, it may be another way to help your loved one heal.
First off, you need to remember that this is not a fix-all solution to addiction but another method on the list of many you can use to find the best way to approach your loved one. However, interventions can be especially effective when you know that a regular conversation would only result in denial or anger. This should be a structured session guided by a professional therapist, meant to show the addict how much their actions have affected those around them, but without resorting to blame or anger.
It needs to be a safe space for them to finally be able to admit to themselves and to you that they truly need help. This is the moment to tell them that you love them, and offer them a few ways in which you can help, and a support plan for them to consider when they’re ready.
Ultimately, you’re no expert on addiction, and you cannot become one overnight. However, you cannot possibly relate to what they are going through unless you know at least the process of their disease, the underlying issues, and the potential consequences. Do your best to talk to a professional and rely on reputable medical sources to learn about their particular situation and the best ways to tackle it.
You can look to SAMHSA, other online and offline sources, and you can also seek help from a support group meant for families of those struggling with an addition. Chances are there are a few of them in your region, so don’t be afraid to talk to those in a similar situation.
Even though you cannot make the decisions for them, how you behave and treat your loved one with an addiction will make all the difference in their recovery. Use this guide to help you cope, and make sure to keep learning in order to give them all the love and support they will most certainly need on their journey.