Did you know that about 75% of people who go through addictions ultimately overcome them? This is fantastic news, but it is hard to remember it when your loved one is the one struggling. The light at the end of the tunnel seems so far away.
Supporting a loved one who’s managing an addiction is challenging. It can really wear you down. You are worrying, working hard to understand, and likely feeling scared about their future.
We’re here to talk about what you can do to support your friend through their recovery. Read on to learn more.
Identify the Signs
Before you jump to any conclusions, you want to make sure your loved one is actually experiencing addiction before you make any accusations. It is not uncommon for people to assume that casual drug or alcohol consumption automatically equals addiction, or that other mental health struggles are actually symptoms of addiction. You want to be as certain as possible before you say something you may regret later.
So what are common signs of addiction?
Note that all addictions are different and that, on their own, these signs may not indicate addiction at all. They could be off days or they could be indicative of other mental health struggles. The helpful experts at www.summitdetox.com/residential-rehab/ have several posts about identifying the use (and overuse) of drugs like opioids, and these are a good starting point. We do have a short list of common signs here.
Common signs include (but are not limited to):
- Withdrawing from social circles
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Constant fatigue
- Frequent mood changes
- Erratic behavior
- Stealing or asking for money often
- Changes in skin (bruises, scratch marks, or scabs)
- Redness or paleness
- Poor grades or work performance all of the sudden
Again, these are not all of the potential signs and none of them indicate an addiction for certain. This is just a brief list that can help you start looking for and identifying problems.
Look Into Treatment Options
It is a good idea to start doing your research on local treatment options for your loved one before you confront them. Even if they aren’t willing to start treatment right away, you can show them that you’ve put effort into helping them and that you are willing to walk them through the process (to some extent).
Both inpatient and outpatient treatment options are valid. People who are deep in their addictions and who need around-the-clock care and support may benefit more from inpatient treatment (otherwise known as residential treatment). They’ll have peer support and medical support at all times.
Unfortunately, inpatient care can be quite expensive and it separates the patient from their day-to-day routine. People with close connections to loved ones or many responsibilities at home won’t be able to do it. If someone needs to work or go to school, an inpatient may not be a good option.
Outpatient care generally isn’t as intensive as inpatient care, but intensive outpatient programs are still more than enough for most people. They still provide plenty of access to mental health professionals, peer support, and outside resources.
Once you have a few treatment options in mind, you can talk to your loved one.
Don’t Attack Them
It is common to see dramatized interventions on television with the characters all ganging up on the one with an addiction problem. This can be effective, but it could also scare your loved one off and make them feel like they’re being attacked. This is the opposite of what you want to do.
When you bring up their addiction, make sure you are in a safe and comfortable environment and that your loved one is relaxed (and ideally, sober). Avoid any accusatory language. Focus on “I” language instead of “you” language. This should make them feel more at ease.
Instead of framing your loved one as a problem, focus on solutions. Let them know you are ready to help them but don’t force it unless your loved one is in direct and immediate danger.
Many people struggle with boundaries. It is easy to become an enabler rather than a helper. Enabling looks like helping, but really, it is making things worse.
Boundaries are how we defend ourselves. One example of a good boundary with someone who’s struggling with addiction is that you will not hang out with them while they’re not sober. You are not abandoning them or placing a restriction on them, you are just removing yourself from a situation you don’t want to be in.
Boundaries will help you maintain your relationship with the person and keep both of you feeling comfortable.
Provide Safe Socialization Opportunities
Your loved one may feel isolated both during their recovery and after. Many of their socialization opportunities likely revolved around drugs or alcohol. As an adult, it can be difficult to find sober socialization opportunities.
It is good to help your loved one feel included by providing those opportunities for them and involving them in your plans. Instead of going to the bar, find a fun sober activity to do together. If you invite them to a party, provide things like mocktails so they can feel included (or omit alcohol altogether). Keep things fun and don’t make them feel like a burden.
Let them know they’re always welcome.
Remember That Sobriety Is a Life-Long Journey
Many people think that once you go through treatment, you are cured. This isn’t the case. Sobriety is a life-long journey and your loved one may struggle from time to time. They may even experience a relapse. They’ll need your support anyway.
Stay by their side for their healing journey even if it is tough.
Your Loved One Can Beat Their Addiction
The majority of people who struggle with addictions do eventually overcome them. Your loved one has good odds!
Supporting someone struggling with addiction is challenging, but keep these tips in mind when trying to help your loved one. Remember, addiction is a mental health problem. They need your support!