How to Help a Family Member with Drug Addiction
It’s not easy watching a family member struggle with drug addiction. Substance abuse and addiction have a detrimental impact on nearly every aspect of life, resulting in changes in relationships, financial stability, and employment. If drug addiction is ignored, it will likely only get worse.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at how to help a family member with a drug addiction.
How to Help a Family Member with Drug Addiction
Few things are heartbreaking than watching someone we love spiral into the darkness of addiction.
We begin to feel helpless as the person we know and care about appears to turn into a heartless stranger. It can feel overwhelming to manage our responses while simultaneously feeling a need to do what we can to intervene.
The following are some tips to focus on while deciding on your best course of action.
Here’s how to help a family member with drug addiction.
Become Educated About Addiction
One of the first steps toward being able to help others is understanding what the issue is.
In the case of addiction, there are many factors involved. Not only will there be social, mental, and emotional problems that your addicted loved one is struggling with, but there will also be physical factors that sustain the addiction and make turning away from it difficult.
Understanding the mechanisms that go into forming and maintaining an addiction can help you discern where your input is helping or hindering the recovery process.
Knowing where your loved one falls within the stages of change that go along with addiction recovery will also help to inform you about the best steps to take at each juncture.
Establish Good Boundaries
Codependency is the scenario where our actions, thoughts, and feelings are connected to – or dependent on – the actions, thoughts, and feelings of another.
Determining the existence of codependency can be pretty tricky, as it often masquerades as genuine love and concern. Some of the telltale signs of a codependent relationship involve consistently putting the needs of the addicted person before your own, making excuses for the addicted person’s bad behavior, making choices out of fear of rejection by the addicted person, and taking the blame for the addiction.
If you notice any of these behaviors on your part, you are likely to be in a compromised position within the relationship. Making good decisions toward helping others requires that we are in a good position.
Keep Open Lines of Communication
Having healthy boundaries doesn’t involve cutting off connections. Once our mental and emotional responses to the situation are under control, we can tolerate honest forms of communication from our addicted loved ones.
Many things expressed during intoxication and withdrawal might be hurtful or ugly, and the perceptions of someone in addiction may be far from accurate.
Even so, it is important that our loved one knows that, while we may not agree, we are always available to listen and provide honest feedback.
Keeping the communication lines open is important in allowing the space for your addicted loved one to be honest and know that they will always be loved by you.
Making sure that your form of communication is conducive to the prospect of a future recovery is also important.
Practice using I-statements and refrain from using accusatory language during interactions. Heaping blame and guilt on an addicted person doesn’t help move them toward the goal of wellness.
It can be tempting for those dealing with a loved one in addiction to put unreasonable conditions on our interactions.
Unlike establishing good boundaries, attempting to control the behavior of an addicted person through setting up ultimatums can be counterproductive to desired outcomes.
Not only do external restrictions fail to create the internal changes in the addicted person necessary for sustained recovery, but the person sitting down the ultimatum may find that they regret it once the conditions are not met.
The failure to meet the demands of an ultimatum, and the regret of initiating it, can result in negative feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment.
Take care of what is in your control, and leave out attempting to control the actions of others.
Even with your efforts toward learning how to support your loved one in addiction, it may be the case that very little change is made.
Providing a loving connection while the person you care about is in addiction can be more of a marathon than a sprint. You must do what it takes to maintain your mental, physical, and emotional health during the journey. Make sure to foster a healthy social support system for yourself.
Take breaks from the drama when needed. Tend to your diet and exercise routines, and make sure to engage in some activities that bring you peace and pleasure.
Adequate self-care will provide the fuel you need to keep moving forward in your quest to assist your loved one.
Model Healthy Living
Most of us are familiar with the famous sentiment attributed to Gandhi: Be the change you want to see in the world.
This concept indicates the psychological concept of the importance of modeling. As someone free from addiction, we will want to be an example to our addicted loved one of the benefits of sobriety.
When we are mentally and emotionally unwell, despite our sobriety, it will be harder for someone to want to take our advice regarding making healthier life decisions. Spend this time working on helping yourself to be the best version of yourself.
Despite our best efforts, what we can offer from our storehouse of energy, knowledge, and experience may not be enough. It is helpful to be prepared with a stash of outside resource links to provide to a loved one in addiction.
Substance abuse treatment programs have been successfully treating the disease of addiction for centuries, and the techniques for doing so are continually evolving. If you don’t know what treatment and support options are available in your area, you can always direct your loved one to reach out to one of the national support hotlines.
Last medically reviewed October 9, 2022