What to Do If You’re Worried a Loved One Has an Addiction Problem
Coming to the realization that a loved one has an addiction problem can conjure up an abundance of emotions, but the worst thing you can do is ignore the issue. Blaming yourself for letting it happen is not a constructive use of your energy. If they’ve been lying to you recently, understand that you can’t take this type of behavior personally, as this one of the side effects of addiction. You’re dealing with a completely different person now, so you’ve got to support your loved one as they are now — not who they were before drugs or alcohol took over their life. While you can’t magically fix the problem for them, you can make an effort to help them move in the right direction. Here’s how to get started.
Familiarize Yourself with the Different Types of Treatment
Before approaching your loved one, familiarize yourself with the different types of treatment available. It can be helpful to have talking points that could help motivate this person if you hit on a point of interest. For example, maybe the thought of a traditional 12-step program scares someone. In this case, pointing out other methods, such as those that are either more religious-based or holistic, can make treatment seem less daunting. However, it’s not uncommon for recovery survivors to have feelings of shame and guilt. There are also several alternative therapies (to be used in conjunction with a traditional program) that can help banish cravings, prevent relapse, and help patients start a new sober life. Some examples include yoga, exercise, gardening, pet and art therapies, meditation, and acupuncture.
How to Confront Your Loved One
There’s no doubt that confronting a loved one may be one of the most difficult things you have to do, but make sure you go in with compassion, not anger or hostility. Giving a person with an addiction problem reasons to be hopeful has proven to be helpful when they’re in treatment. Before having the talk, consult with an addiction physician or certified addiction mental health professional for guidance. Try to come up with as many details as possible, including what they’re using, how often, what side effects you’ve noticed, behavioral changes, etc.
Avoid speaking to your loved one when they’re under the influence, as the conversation is liable to get you nowhere or turn violent. Don’t approach them when they’re running out the door, as you’re going to need a good amount of time to have a discussion. Emphasize how much you care, but list very specific behaviors and actions that prompt you to believe there’s a problem. Make sure that you ask open-ended questions to avoid a lecture-like feel. Be prepared for denial and revisit the conversation at a later date. However, if you notice a life-threatening situation, seek help immediately via a crisis hotline or 911.
If you’ve made several attempts to try to get your loved one into treatment without success, it may be time to stage an intervention, especially if you feel their health is in serious danger. At this juncture, loop in a substance abuse counselor or intervention specialist to help back you up and provide expertise during the confrontation. Gather a group of friends, family, and other concerned loved ones and make sure everyone clears their schedule for at least a couple of hours. Make sure everyone is prepared to communicate clear thoughts and feelings. Choose a location that feels safe for your loved one such as your home or theirs, but don’t hold them against their will. Offer love, compassion, and resources to help them through the recovery process. If they accept help, note that this is not the end of your support, but just the beginning.
Bethany Hatton, a retired librarian with 32 years of experience, created PreventAddiction.info after her oldest grandson became addicted to opioids.
As her grandson recovered from an overdose, the number of questions Bethany had about his illness swelled: How had his addiction developed? Could she and other family members have done anything differently along the way? And most importantly, how could she help him get better and ensure others in her family and community didn’t suffer the same fate? Using the research skills she honed during her work as a librarian, she dedicated herself to searching the internet to find the most reputable, reliable information to share on her site. She analyzed, compiled, and categorized hundreds of resources so that she could be sure she included only the best of the best for her visitors.
Though she discovered there is no guaranteed way to prevent addiction; she was able to find many helpful resources that can keep the public up to date on the latest prevention, addiction, and recovery information.
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