The holiday season brings about opportunities to spend time with friends and family that we may not get to see throughout the rest of the year. It's a great opportunity to catch up with those we love. While the holiday season tends to be lighthearted and festive, it is also important to make sure people are happy and healthy. Learning to recognize the signs of drug abuse in a loved one has become a necessary survival skill, especially now. With the unpredictable and highly potent substances available on the street, catching drug abuse quickly just might mean the difference between life and death.
Whether you are a parent, spouse, sibling, or friend, trust your instincts. If you have a feeling that something is not right, start asking questions. It’s better to speak up than regret having been silent later on. We all want to think the best of those we love, but don’t let that stop you from intervening when your gut says you should. When people suffer from addiction, those they love feel devastated and powerless to help them.
This is why, as a friend or family member of someone with an addiction, accepting that you cannot help on your own is the first step to getting through. After all, addiction requires professional help beyond the capacities of addicts' inner circles of support.
So, before you take action, arm yourself with the knowledge of what you should and should not do to help.
Things you should not do
Make them quit: As devastating as this sounds, quitting the addiction is not your decision to make. Quitting and abstaining must always be the addict's choice; it has to come from within. Once people develop a serious addiction, you can't control them.
Limit their resources: You can try to stage an intervention or remove them from the situation, but lasting changes will only come when the addict decides. It's important for you to remember that addiction overrides the brain. Your loved one will lie, manipulate and steal to support the addiction for as long as possible until he or she makes the conscious decision to get help.
Be too deeply involved: As the parent, friend, or spouse of the addict, you'll naturally want to be involved in your loved one's recovery programs and processes. However, you have to remember that this recovery is your loved one's journey to make: not yours. If you want lasting results, you can't try to make the recovery process something you can do on behalf of the addict. It just doesn't work that way.
Give them a pass: It's easy to enable. With this in mind, you must be willing to allow your addicted loved one to face the consequences of his or her actions. For example, if sobriety is a requirement of being in your home, but the addict shows up drunk or high, you mustn't let it slide. Stick to the consequences you've set in place. It will be upsetting for you both at first, but insisting that your word must be followed may help your loved one realize, once and for all, that addiction is not worth all the trouble that comes with it.
Things you should do
Keep an open mind: It is important for you to be able to talk in a clear, open, non-judgmental way when discussing addiction with loved ones who are struggling with it. Be encouraging and supportive without taking the recovery process upon yourself. Remember, recovery is only possible when it's the addict's choice, no matter how much you want to step in.
Talk and listen: One of the best things you can do after finding out about a loved one's addiction is to talk it through. By talking about it, listening to your loved one and getting educated, you'll be helping and also taking care of yourself.
Educate yourself: Getting educated about addiction will help you better understand your loved one's actions, triggers, and what kinds of boundaries to set in your relationship. Seek and insist on professional help for your loved one and yourself, if necessary. Do not allow yourself to be abused or manipulated, and don't assume that all is well once rehab is completed. Be loving but firm. Click here to download a free e-book from The Treatment Center on “Helping a Loved One Get Addiction Treatment.”
At The Treatment Center of The Palm Beaches, we understand how difficult it is to watch a friend, family member or loved one struggle with addiction. But you can be a beacon of hope: you can help your loved one heal.
Helping your addicted loved ones starts with connecting them to the best tools for their addiction recovery. If you are ready to step up, we invite you to work with our team at The Treatment Center of The Palm Beaches to facilitate your loved one's addiction recovery.