How to Help a Family Member Through Their Addiction
It’s never enjoyable seeing a family member suffer. Illnesses are beyond our control, but when a loved one is sick, it is natural to do all you can to help them. Addiction is an illness like any other, but one that plays out differently to most. Helping a family member through an addiction is not easy and is a vastly different proposition to helping them through a physical illness. It can often be frustrating trying to understand why they feel the need to keep taking to substances that are controlling their lives. However, in order to help them through it, you will need to develop a strong sense of empathy. You will also need to have patience with them and be willing to help them back up if they fall.
The following tips will help both you to help your family member to battle their addiction together, giving them the greatest possible chance of success.
You will find it much easier to help your family member with their problem if you have a reasonable understanding of it yourself. The internet can provide you with a wealth of information about the features of addictions to particular substances, as well as information about what the withdrawal from those substances is like. Forewarned is forearmed, the more you know yourself, the less likely you are to be caught off guard and feel out of your depth when supporting them.
Understanding the nature of an addiction also allows you to spot the signs that your family member is using again. Addicts are very good at coming up with excuses for any behavior that might seem out of the norm and is indicative of them using drugs again. Never underestimate how adept addicts are at keeping signs of their drug addiction hidden from those around them. Once you are familiar with the tell-tale signs that they are using, you will find it much easier to step in and intervene.
Know Your Limits
The desire to help a family member who is struggling is a perfectly natural one. However, it is all too easy for the situation to gradually take its toll on you. At the end of the day, only you know how much you can take on without becoming overwhelmed. If the situation becomes too much for you to handle, or begins to take an unreasonable toll upon your own health and wellbeing, it is completely understandable for you to remove yourself from the situation. It does no good to yourself or your family member for you to keep doing something that is making you unhappy.
Encourage Them to Seek Professional Help
Even the strongest of us can only take so much before we are affected by it. Seeking professional help can often be a life-changing step, but it is one that many addicts are afraid of. Our society places a tremendous stigma on drug users, and access to treatment can vary from state to state. However, a professional can provide the kind of long-term stable support that many addicts need. A doctor, psychiatrist, or specialist substance misuse worker can all provide medication, either as a substitute for illegal drugs or as a means of weaning the addict of their current drug of choice.
A professional drugs counselor will also be able to assist the addict with the toughest part of addiction, which is psychological. Even if an addict is kept away from their drug of choice long enough for the physical withdrawal symptoms to subside, the desire to use often remains strong for a number of months afterward. Ensuring that they receive the right advice and support after the physical withdrawal is over is crucial if they are to maintain their sobriety.
Don’t Judge Them
For most addicts, coming forward and admitting that they have a problem is a difficult but vital step in the recovery process. It is therefore important that they don’t feel as if they are being judged for their issues. You might find yourself feeling somewhat confused, or even hurt, by the choices that your family member has made. However, showing them that you are there for them and that you do not think any less of them for their issue will go a long way to helping them to heal. Being actively involved in their recovery in any way you can, such as helping them to make and stick to appointments, providing them with your company or your ear when they are thinking about using, and reminding them that they are not alone in their struggle will all go a long way in helping them with their recovery.
Helping a family member through an issue as complicated as addiction is never easy. But as hard as it might be for you, it is even harder for the addict. By fostering a relationship built upon trust and honesty, two things that are missing from many addicts lives, you can play a pivotal role in helping them achieve sobriety. Of course, you should not allow yourself to become overwhelmed, but if you do decide to help them make sure you are ready to fully commit.