Substance abuse affects more than 24 million Americans and the number of overdose fatalities seems to climb each year. Loving someone with a pattern of substance abuse can be incredibly difficult. This is the first half of a two part post that looks to help someone who has a loved one struggling with addiction. Below are three tools that can help if you find yourself in a situation where a loved one is battling a substance abuse disorder.
Help Yourself First
Addiction is a family disease and you can’t help another person until you learn to help yourself. It’s like being on an airplane and having the oxygen masks deploy. What do they tell you to do? Securely place your own mask on your face before assisting others to do the same. Educate yourself on addiction so you understand the disease process taking place in an addict’s mind. Specifically seek out information on the impact substance abuse has on a person’s family and friends. Make sure you have the support you need to not allow this to dictate your life. Groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are fantastic places to educate yourself, learn to cope, and find support. Don’t be afraid to go see a counselor for a time if you need to. Counselors aren’t just for the person addicted and can be a valuable resource to their loved ones.
Encourage Professional Help
Recognize that your loved one might not see their substance use as a problem. If this is the case it puts you in a very difficult position. Someone can’t find a solution without acknowledging the existence of a problem. Be honest with the person who’s concerning you about what you view as a problem and work to have them see the consequences of their actions. Voice your concerns to your loved one. Keep in mind the addicted person’s perspective and explain the adverse effects as they relate to something the person really cares about.
For example a person with chemical dependency might not be worried about their own health, but they may be really bothered by seeing someone they care about being hurt because of their addiction. Remain positive and let the person know that you are there for them. Months long inpatient treatment care doesn’t have to be for everyone. However a few days in a detox facility is a necessity when you’re coming off substances. In some cases (benzodiazepines) the withdrawals can literally kill you and coming off drugs of any kind will be a difficult undertaking.
Listen More, Talk Less
You’ll never convince someone to stop using drugs or alcohol. No matter how much time or effort you give it simply will not work. Therefore; it’s best to make persuasion, not demands, your objective. You will find more success in asking the right questions than being overly assertive. Listen to your addicts perspective and ask the right questions. When you talk, be sure to let your loved one know it’s coming from a place of compassion. Some examples would be: How much money do you spend on drugs? When was the last time you bought something for yourself that wasn’t a substance? You used to like A, B, and C but you just don’t anymore, what do you still enjoy?