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How do we help someone we love when they are suffering from an addiction? This can be a very sensitive topic. What if they do not accept our help? What if they do not believe they need help? The effects of addiction are not only on the person who is suffering, but on their family, friends, and partner. It can take many years to recovery and the road can be long and difficult. However, the right support system can make all the difference.

Supporting a family member or partner who is suffering from an addiction can be difficult. Take care of your own well-being first and foremost. Remember, you cannot help someone else if you are not helping yourself. It can be a balancing act, but one that can be achieved.

Recognizing Abuse in a Loved One

It can be hard to recognize if a loved one has a substance abuse disorder. In teenagers, moodiness may resemble normal adolescent behavior. There is no specific amount of use that indicates if someone’s drug use is a cause for concern. Whether your loved one uses it every day or every month, it is the impact their drug use has on their life that indicates a problem. Some signs your loved one may have a substance abuse problem:

● Problems at school, home, or work. If they appear high more often than usual and are taking time away from school/home/work. When performance suffers and they are neglecting responsibilities it is a sign of a problem. It is possible they might lose their job, drop out of school, or separate from a romantic problem.

● Experiencing new health problems. Changes in sleep schedule, weight, looking run-down, and being forgetful are all common. Depending on the drug, they may also be shaky, experience nosebleeds, or have frequent sniffling.

● Financial problems. Your loved one may run up credit card debt to support his or her addiction. They may borrow or steal money just to get what they need. This can be very dangerous, especially if you do not know about it and your finances are connected.

● Drastic changes in mood or behavior. Your loved one may be more prone to lie or become secretive about what they are doing or how much they are using. They could be quick to anger and lash out. Heavy drug users become moodier, lack energy, and are often safe. Their personal hygiene may also suffer as a result.

How to Start a Conversation About It

Come from a place of compassion and understanding. No one wants to have an addiction. It is a disease and often the result of a misguided attempt to cope with painful problems. Stress can also fuel addictive behavior. Treat your loved one the way you normally would. Do not demean, criticize, or shame them. This will only push them further away or encourage them to seek comfort in substance abuse.

It can be hard to process that your loved one has a drug problem. You will have a strong emotional reaction, so it is important to take your time to process it. This way, you will be calmer and more supportive in the conversation. Try to remove judgemental thoughts and be as supportive as possible. Here are our best tips to make this conversation go well:

● Be honest. You care about this person and are worried about them, express that. Offer examples of their behavior that make you concerned and be honest with them about your feelings.

● Do not delay. Do not wait for them to get arrested, lose their job, or suffer a medical emergency. Movies and television make it seem like the person has to hit rock bottom, but that is not true. The earlier an addiction is treated, the better.

● Offer them support. Information about how they can address their problem is crucial. Helplines, doctors, counselors, or group programs are available to help. Have some resources available to your loved one so they can start the process as soon as possible.

● Listen. You may not agree with the person or the choices they make, but listen to what they have to say. When they feel heard, they will know you are there to support them and someone they can confide in.

● Be ready for denial. Your loved one may respond angry or refuse to talk about it. He or she may feel ashamed and will try to deny their problem. Do not argue with them. You might just have to have the conversation at another point.

● Do not expect one conversation to fix the problem. This will likely be one of many conversations. There is no quick fix. It is a process. It might take a few conversations just for them to admit to the problem. Do not be discouraged, this is the first step to recovery.

Additional Things to Pay Attention to During the Conversation

Negative stereotypes and stigma make suffering from an addiction even harder. The conversation will be hard enough, so here are a few words we suggest you avoid in order to help break the stigma and support your loved one most:

  • “Addict”. This term is dehumanizing. It places the person’s addiction before their identity. It discredits addiction as a disease. Try “someone struggling with addiction”, as this puts the person before the problem.
  • “User”. This puts judgment on those who abuse drugs. It connects the person with negative views of people who are struggling.
  • “Clean”. This term is considered derogatory because it suggests that people who use drugs are “dirty”. Instead of saying this, try “sober” or “in recovery”.
  • “Alcoholic”. This is similar to ‘addict’ because it puts the problem before the person. Try, “someone who struggles with alcoholism”.

The way we speak can really impact the conversation. Try to correct these terms if you hear others using them incorrectly.

Options for Treatment

Addiction can affect everyone differently, which is why there are so many different treatment options. Remember, people have to decide on their own that they need treatment. You can only try to motivate them and support them. Here are some of the most common treatment methods:

  • Inpatient treatment. Consistent, residential programs may work best if your loved one could use some time away. These facilities often do 12-step work, have educational programs, counseling, and wellness courses. They have a constant support system and discover how to navigate their triggers early in the process.
  • Detox. This is a medically supervised process of removing drugs and alcohol from the body. It is often used as the first step in the process.
  • Sober living communities. This method allows people to live with others who are recovering. They help each other master skills and better reintegrate into society.
  • Outpatient treatment. These programs allow people who cannot live in facilities to still receive the help they need from home. Typically, the individual will be involved in one-on-one and group therapy.
  • Therapy. While therapy alone may not stop the substance abuse, it can be a great place to start. People are able to work on coping skills and have professional support. If you are interested in Mental Treat for therapy, click here to engage with our platform.

Addiction can be a very sensitive topic. Being educated on addiction and its many treatment options can help save lives. But what can you do for yourself during this time? Seek counseling or therapy.

Addiction affects everyone involved. As we said, it is crucial to take care of yourself while you are taking care of someone suffering from an addiction. Getting help for yourself is normal and healthy. It may be the best thing you can do for your loved one. On Mental Treat, we have a variety of licensed mental health specialists. Each person on our platform is equipped to help you through this difficult time. Simply apply our filters to find the person who is the right fit for you. Click here to get started.

What Can You Actually Do?

The biggest thing is to show empathy. It is a very powerful tool and one we cannot overlook. Carl Rogers, a very prominent psychologist, noted that when people are hurting, empathy is the most valuable gift we can offer. He identified empathy as one of the six conditions necessary for change in the counseling process.

Although empathy is necessary for all counseling relationships, it is particularly crucial in working with people who have addictions. There is so much misinformation and stigma surrounding addiction that these individuals rarely receive empathy. Rogers says, “The highest expression of empathy is accepting and nonjudgmental.” Empathy is healing.

Here are a few tips on how to empathize with your loved one, even when it is not easy:

  1. Listen, but do not judge. There are many books, podcasts, blogs, and documentaries that discuss addiction. Engage with these resources, but do not judge them. Use them as a resource to better understand what is going on in your loved one’s life.
  2.  Self-reflect. What stereotypes, judgments, and stigmas do you have about addiction? Where do they stem from? Take time to identify these and connect them to your situation now.
  3. Spend time with individuals who suffer from addictions. Becoming involved in recovery organizations helps you humanize the disease. You break your own stigmas and can directly empathize with the people you meet. This will also help your loved one see you are there to be supportive.
  4. Set clear boundaries with this person and the rest of the family. This will not necessarily be easy, but in all healthy relationships, it is important. When you know what triggers your loved one to experience cravings or abuse substances, work with the rest of your family to keep those situations from happening. Recovery is a team effort.

What to Expect When They Start Treatment

It can be hard to say what you will experience when your loved one begins treatment. All emotions are normal and valid. Here are a few:

  • Relief. It could feel like the weight of the world is off your shoulders knowing your loved one is being treated and in a safe space. It could feel like all the struggle to get to this point was worth it and they are finally on a healthy path.
  • Anger. You may also resent your loved one for passing the burden of their disease onto you and others. You may be angry that they got to this point or angry at yourself for any possible contributions.
  • Stress. You may be concerned about whether or not your loved one will get the help they need or if they will come out a different person.
  • Sadness. You may feel bad for your loved one and his or her struggle. Sadness like this is a sign of empathy for them and their situation.
  • Shame. This could be a result of guilt because you could not save them or embarrassment that you have to say they are in recovery.

Regardless of what you feel, it is valid. This is now the time for you to focus on yourself and heal. Reach out for support from others who have been in your position or speak to a therapist. You will eventually be asked to be involved in their recovery, and you want to be emotionally present. Family therapy has proven to be incredibly beneficial for patients and family members. Remember, starting treatment is just the beginning, but it is a fantastic step in the right direction for their health.

A Word From Mental Treat

Having a loved one who is suffering from an addiction can be very hard. However, now you know some steps you can take to support this person and take care of yourself. Remember, you cannot force them to change, only support them to get help.

We hope you found this article informative and encourage you to read similar ones on our blog for more information. In the event of an emergency, seek help immediately. Recovery is possible, and with someone like you on their side, it is even more so. Take care, and be well.


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