When a loved one is suffering from an addiction, you can almost see pieces of them get stripped away. Addiction is so much more than just a refusal to stop a destructive action. It is a complicated push and pull process that many cannot break out of alone.
Addictions typically begin as a crutch. Opioid addictions in particular are very dangerous for this reason. What starts as a prescription for pain management soon becomes an addiction that can never be fully scratched, because the body develops resistance to the opiate and in turn prompts the user to take more and more.
Drug and alcohol addiction is in a sense used as a treatment for hurt in their lives. It then becomes a monster all of its own, and physically changes the brain to send out signals demanding more. The result of not feeding the monster is a very painful (and sometimes fatal) withdrawal process. Even if one manages to detox, if those initial causes that led to the addiction in the first place aren’t addressed, there is little hope for a full recovery.
Helping a loved one who is battling an addiction can feel hard, even impossible. But remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Follow these steps to help yourself as well as your loved one:
Know the signs and symptoms of addiction
The first step to help a loved one is to know they are in need of help, and most importantly what type of help to get them. There are many signs and symptoms of addiction that will look like, and in some cases will actually be, signs and symptoms of mental illness. In many cases of addiction, they go hand-in-hand. Mental illness and addiction are commonly co-occurring, making getting sober without a comprehensive approach impossible.
Some signs and symptoms that you will want to watch out for include:
- Secretive behavior
- Financial instability
- Loss of interest in hobbies and goals
- Change in friends and social circles
And then there are the physical symptoms that should not be ignored:
- Increased tolerance,g. for alcohol
- Withdrawal symptoms, g. sweats, fever, shakes
- Relationship strain
- Difficulty holding onto their job
- Extreme mood swings
- Extreme weight gain or loss
- Change in skin tone
- Oversleeping or insomnia
The fact is, regardless of whether your loved one is dealing with an addiction or not, these behaviors are unhealthy and they indicate that something is wrong. Getting diagnosed is imperative to help them recover their old selves and to rectify what is ailing them.
Convincing your loved one to get help
Encouraging your loved one to get that diagnosis, and subsequent treatment, can feel like a war. That is why interventions, and more importantly intervention support, exists. Getting all of their loved ones together, and outlining the behavior that is worrying you, can help the addict see themselves through your eyes. Give them steps they can take to get better, but remember that unless they physically harm themselves or overdose, you cannot actually force them without taking the issue to court if they are an adult. Helping them reach a realization that they need help is far more effective for their recovery, anyway.
Find the right treatment center
The best thing that you can do to help your loved one successfully overcome their addiction is to take it seriously. If this is their first time trying to get sober, you should pull out every trick in the book. Not treating it as seriously as someone who has been suffering from addiction for a decade is a huge mistake. The first attempt at getting sober needs to be comprehensive, with help coming from both professionals and those at home.
That’s why, to start, you should look for a high-quality treatment center. Look for a center that has been providing treatments for decades, and one that delivers a full spectrum of treatment options from inpatient drug rehab all the way to housing programs and intensive outpatient sessions. A stable environment is critical, as it enables your loved one to build trust with their caretakers and therapists.
Switching treatment centers throughout their treatment will mean your loved one cannot build the right rapport or trust necessary to truly benefit from therapy. Using one treatment center for all the stages of their recovery will help them so much more, so find the right one at the start and stick with it.
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Get support for yourself
It is hard to care for someone with an addiction, especially if you don’t understand what they are going through yourself. That is why family support therapy is a must for anyone who is serious about helping their loved one through recovery.
These sessions help you understand addiction, and also work to teach you how to address your loved one’s addiction and the most beneficial ways to help.
You should also look into finding a good support group for yourself. Connecting with other families who are going through the same thing you are can help you share the frustrations, the pain, and also in the triumphs. Everyone needs a support system, so while you are busy being a great support to your loved one, find one of your own to keep you strong throughout the process.
Work towards recovery together
Working with their therapist you can build a healthy home environment and work to build up a new lifestyle that helps them stay sober and productive. By building a better life together you can keep them on track and connect with them. Eat healthier, volunteer, join a sports team or organization, or even just get out together and engage in fun activities. Help them build a thriving life without the need for any substances.
Take it one day at a time
Addiction is a lifelong challenge, even if an addict never touches uses again for their entire life. The temptation will always be there, especially if they face a tragedy or setback. That is why you should always take it one day at a time. Make sure they have all the necessary support systems and a healthy lifestyle to fall back on, and remember to be there in case they trip up to start the process again.