Seeing someone you love spiral deeper down the rabbit hole of substance abuse is at once heartbreaking and terrifying. Naturally, you want to help. When a friend or family member is suffering due to an alcohol or drug addiction, you can begin to feel helpless not knowing what to do. However, remember that there is support for both and for the person who you are concerned for.
What is of the utmost importance is that you remember that you cannot help a loved one if you are not well yourself.
Find Support For You
Know that there are support groups out there composed of individuals who understand what you’re going through. These groups provide compassionate understanding and arm their participants with the tools to deal with their loved ones who are addicted to substances in a way that is healthy for all.
Anger, frustration, disappointment, doubt, denial, codependency and dishonesty are all emotional hallmarks of addiction and affect not only the addict but those around them as well. Learning how to effectively tackle these emotions, take care of one’s self, and separate the addict from the addiction are essential for your own well-being and health.
Al-Anon, Alateen and Nar-Anon are all support groups that offer strength and hope for friends and families of addicts. Meetings are available in most cities and those looking to find a meeting, can do so online from the groups respective websites.
Providing Support to an Addict
Experts say that friends and family are among the greatest resources addicts have to help them recover. Providing support to an addict begins with expressing your concern in a non-accusatory way. Contrary to what is portrayed on shows like “Intervention” or in the movies, the conversation does not need to be confrontational and will be more effective if you express your concern from a place of love rather than anger.
When you do decide to address your loved one about their addiction, talk about specific behaviors or incidents related to their substance abuse that have directly affected you. Say “I’m worried about you. These are the things I see that I am worried about. I’m concerned you have a problem but I know there are treatment options available.” Avoid attacking or judging.
The first hurdle is getting the person with the problem to seek help.
Don’t Wait for “Rock Bottom”
Remember that you do not have to wait for a crisis to happen before you approach some you love about their addiction. It simply is not true that a person needs to hit “rock bottom” before they find the motivation and inspiration to seek help. Your concern may be the impetus which wakes them up and causes them to seek treatment. You may initially be met with excuses, denial or anger but again, be prepared to respond with specific examples of behavior that has caused you to worry.
Denial accompanies addiction and people with an addiction are often terrified that they will lose control of their lives if they seek treatment. However, treatment actually allows them to take full control of their lives and not hide behind their addiction any longer.
Always remember that you need to take care of yourself first before you can properly take care of others. Do not be a martyr. Don’t cover up, lie or make excuses for someone else’s behavior and do not assume responsibility for someone else’s actions. Do not feel guilty or responsible because someone else’s addiction is never your fault.
Express your concern and remember that this in itself takes courage and is enough. The conversation may be the starting point that redirects your loved one onto the path of recovery or plants the seed that will ripen later.