It can be very difficult to see a loved one struggling with addiction, and you may be wondering how on earth you can help. Fortunately, as long as you are a source of love and support, even in small ways, your loved one has a chance of overcoming their addiction

Every individual is unique, as are the circumstances around their addiction, but there are some general guidelines you can follow to ensure that you are an appropriate, and not enabling, source of love and support.

Trust

You should focus on building trust in the relationship. This can be difficult if the trust has already been broken, but a two-way trusting relationship is an important first step in helping them to think about change.

Try to avoid nagging, criticizing, or lecturing your loved one as this is likely to create a rift in the relationship.

Remember that, even though you just want to help, they may see you as controlling and resort to further use. The addictive behavior may be a way of dealing with stress, so try to avoid creating or enabling a stressful atmosphere.

Communication

Tactical communication is key. You may want to express to your loved one that their behavior is a big problem and they need to change, but that decision is ultimately theirs to make. When communicating, be honest, but do not do so in a way that may be perceived as threatening or authoritative.

Timing is important. Avoid the conversation if your loved one is under the influence. While in this state, people are less able to respond with patience and logic, and are more likely to react angrily or dismissively.

Do not bring up the subject if you are under the influence yourself.

Emphasize that the reason you are having this conversation in the first place is because you are concerned for them.

Don’t expect an immediate fix – the road to recovery is long and requires patience.

Take Care of Yourself

People with addictions rarely change until there is some consequence to their behavior.[1] Don’t stress too much about protecting your loved one from the consequences of their actions as this may be an influential factor in their decision to get help.

Make sure that you prioritize your own mental and physical health and wellbeing above anyone else’s. You can’t help anyone if you don’t help yourself first. Though the situation may be stressful, having your health and peace of mind intact will be vital in successfully moving forward. Focus on your own emotional stability and you will be much better equipped to face any confrontations or arguments that may arise.

Avoid Blaming

Instead of placing blame on your loved one or anyone else who you believe may have been an influence in their drug use, family members should be encouraged and encourage each other to show love and support. Blaming is not a constructive activity. What you can do is encourage your loved one to take responsibility for themselves by acknowledging the issue and seeking treatment.

Enabling vs. Helping

Know the difference between helping and enabling. Providing financial help can be a problem because of the likelihood that the cash will feed the addiction. If financial help is needed, you could make the purchases yourself, for things like food and clothing. People suffering from addiction can often burn through financial resources very quickly, and resort to stealing money from family and friends.

Expect Challenges

Helping a loved one come to terms with their addiction can be challenging for family members. In the first place, they may not even acknowledge that there is an issue. They might also not have any interest in changing their behavior.

‘The process of overcoming a drug addiction needs great willpower and determination, so if they do not want to change what they are doing, trying to persuade them to get help is unlikely to work.[2]’ They might feel embarrassed about the whole situation and be unwilling to talk about it. The addiction is also likely to be a coping mechanism used to deal with other issues that are bothering them, so they may refuse to see the drug use as a problem that needs to be prioritized.

Educate Yourself

Learn as much as you can about the nature of addiction. There are countless articles and  studies investigating the nature of addiction available online. By educating yourself and other family members on the topic, you may find a sense of hope and confidence that recovery is possible. Education also takes the power away from blaming. Family members should learn about how addiction alters the neurochemistry of the brain, moving them away from a place of anger and blame, and towards sympathy and understanding.

[1] Hartney, E. (2019). How You Can Emotionally Support Someone With an Addiction. [online] Verywell Mind. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-help-addicts-22238#citation-3 [Accessed 18 Feb. 2020].

[2] Hartney, E. (2019). How You Can Emotionally Support Someone With an Addiction. [online] Verywell Mind. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-help-addicts-22238#citation-3 [Accessed 18 Feb. 2020].

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