Addiction is an insidious disease that permeates all levels of society and cultures. It is especially scary to come face to face with the addiction of a loved one. It can seem like they are slowly being swallowed by their substance of choice, being twisted into an entirely different person when they are using or coming down from the high. It can feel like they no longer care about you or themselves and despite all the negative consequences, continue their substance abuse. You probably wish to help or convince your loved one to seek treatment, but there are a few things you need to know about helping an addict.
You didn’t cause it
You can’t cure it
You can’t control
People close to addicts often find that they struggle with accepting one or more of the above truths. The reality of addiction is that it’s a disease with no known cure and that the addict will only change when they make the decision for themselves. While an addict may even blame others close to them for their addiction, there is simply no basis in reality for this accusation. No one is directly responsible for the actions of someone else.
What You Can’t Do
Before you can help your loved one get the help they need, it’s important to understand the limitations of what you can and cannot do for them. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Similarly, you can lead an alcoholic to AA but you can’t make them stop drinking.
You Can’t Make them Quit
You can throw money, ultimatums, accusations, and plead, but nobody gets better until they decide for themselves to do it. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t encourage someone to get sober, but ultimately the decision to get clean and stay sober is with them. While you can’t force someone to quit, you can point them in the direction of treatment. Likewise, you can also offer to pay for treatment if someone is willing to attend rehab. Keep in mind that there is no definite answer to helping someone get treatment, but they should accept the consequences of their actions and expect realistic boundaries when it comes to how much you are able and willing to help.
You Can’t Do the Work for Them
Recovery is no walk in the park. Addicts may themselves dealing with Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms for months and years following their decision to get clean. You can stick close by, encourage, and watch out for signs of relapse, but it is ultimately up to the addict to recognize and accept when they are in danger of relapsing. Just like you can’t make them quit, you can’t keep them sober. Be their sober champion, but don’t hold yourself responsible for their relapse.
You Can’t Accept Behavior that Violates Your Boundaries
This is the most important thing to remember when dealing with a loved one’s addiction. You must be able to set clear boundaries and follow through with the consequences if they are violated. Any flexibility with your boundaries simply tells an addict that you are not serious and can be manipulated. Sometimes love is tough and the only way for a person to accept the reality of a situation is to lose the thing they care most about.
What You Can Do
While it may seem like addiction holds all the power, there are things you can do and ways to help your loved one that are acceptable and conducive to getting them the treatment they need.
Do the Research
If your loved one refuses to accept they have a problem or denies finding treatment, you can help by doing research on what options are available for them. When an addict finally decides to attend rehab it is usually preceded by a dark or painful moment of clarity. This moment is sometimes referred to as “rock bottom” and refers to when someone finally realizes the only option they have is to seek treatment or lose everything, including their life. At this moment, they are usually susceptible to agreeing to treatment, so it’s helpful to have those resources available for them so they do not struggle or change their minds.
Do Take Care of Yourself
A critical lesson for people in relationships with addicts is learning to practice self-care. Loved ones that become addicts pull on our heartstrings and can influence the way we feel, think, act, and speak. When someone becomes tied to the wellbeing of their addicted loved one, this is known as codependency. Both individuals become reliant on one another to feed their addiction, with the sober person typically feeling the need to control, please, or be loved by the addict, and the addict continuing their substance abuse because the other individual will continue to enable it. If you want to help your loved one, help yourself first, and then help them from a distance where they cannot violate your boundaries or influence your wellbeing.
Do Talk About It
Talking about the disease of addiction can be healing for the addict as well as their loved ones. The basis of Al-Anon, an offshoot of Alcoholics and Anonymous, is that loved ones needed a place to meet and discuss the difficulties of addiction. As a disease that thrives in the darkness, addiction is best treated with open dialogue and honesty. A person with a drug or alcohol problem may have trouble talking about their addiction, but nothing is more toxic than hiding behind shame. Try talking openly and directly with your loved one or within the confines of Al-Anon about their addiction.
Does My Loved One Need Treatment?
One of the most difficult aspects of addiction is knowing how to diagnose it. You may suspect your loved one has a problem, but as a progressive disease, it may have started with less severe symptoms. Signs and red flags of a substance abuse problem vary from person to person, but here are some tell-tale things to look out for:
- Repeated black-out drinking
- Drinking alone
- Frequently mixing multiple substances
- Taking prescription drugs with frequent refills
- Attempting to hide or disguise any of their drinking or drug use
- Money problems, missed work or school days
- Frequently intoxicated
- Bipolar behavior (They’re either up or down)
- Minimizing or dismissing any accusations about their drinking or drug use
- Irritability and hostility when they are not using
- Bloated face and stomach
What Kind of Treatment Does My Loved One Need?
The most effective form of treatment for any type of substance use disorder is getting medical treatment from an accredited rehab facility. In most cases, residential treatment, or inpatient, is the best option for those looking to achieve sobriety. In residential treatment, your loved one will have the ability to take a step back from their daily lives and address their unsustainable addiction. He or she will be able to focus on getting clean and understanding why they feel compelled to take substances.
Residential treatment takes place at a facility and typically involves a residence of 30 - 90 days. The length of stay depends entirely on the facility. While enrolled in inpatient rehab, a resident may first undergo medically supervised detoxification. During detox, the patient will completely withdraw from their substance, often times through the use of supplemental medications that ease withdrawal symptoms, such as Suboxone, Vivitrol, and Methadone. This process typically lasts 7-10 days. The rest of a patient’s stay in a residential treatment center is centered around teaching the patient skills related to continued sobriety, therapy sessions designed to explore the underlying triggers of substance abuse, and support groups designed to help recovering addicts share their story and learn tools for coping and overcoming addiction. Here the patient can build a network of support and skills that will serve their continued sobriety.
After receiving treatment in a residential setting, the next step is either enrolling in an outpatient program or immediately reintegrating back into their daily routine. Outpatient rehab is an effective bridge to the world of recovery for many individuals who struggle to transfer their knowledge from rehab into the real world. Outpatient rehab will allow your loved one to live at home while spending multiple hours a week within the residential setting, talking with therapists and participating in group sessions. Here, they learn the tools for reintegrating with their lives in a sober, healthy, manner. They also have the opportunity to discuss real world scenarios and problems with licensed clinicians. While outpatient is useful, your loved ones best chances for recovery will come from completing a residential program followed by an outpatient, eventually leading to continued meetings and engagement with alumni events and activities.
What Kind of Programs Will My Loved One Experience?
When researching treatment programs, be sure to find out what kind of therapy they offer and whether they are accredited by either the Joint Commision or CARF, the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehab Facilities. In most facilities, your loved one will addiction and specific needs will be thoroughly analyzed and diagnosed. Treatment providers will work in group and one-on-one sessions to help patients address their illness and discuss the psychological underpinnings that trigger their addiction. No single form of therapy and treatment works the same for everyone. Generally speaking, a personalized plan consisting of multiple treatment approaches will offer your loved one the best chance of recovery. The programs they may encounter include:
- 12 Step Programs
- Individual Therapy
- Family Therapy
- Group Sessions
- Holistic Healing
- SMART Recovery
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectal Behavioral Therapy
What if My Loved One Has Other Mental Issues?
Mental illness and addiction, known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders, are more common than you think. People who struggle with addiction are more likely than the general population to also suffer from at least one mental health issue as well. These disorders tend to exacerbate one another, making it difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat. Any type of situation where the afflicted individual suffers from both mental illness and addiction requires a solution that addresses both problems. If your loved one suffers from addiction and mental illness, you’ll want to make sure that they enroll in a treatment program that caters to dual diagnosis.
Staging an Intervention
If you believe that your loved one has a problem but is refusing to seek treatment, an intervention can be an effective means of getting them into treatment. An intervention should involve careful planning, preparation, and if possible, consultation with a qualified professional counselor or addiction specialist. This could include a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, and in some areas a licensed interventionist. Here are the steps you can take if you decide to carry out or need help understanding what's an intervention.
Identify the problem
If you suspect a loved one may be self-medicating with drugs and alcohol and is harming themselves, don’t hesitate. If it is an option, discuss the possibility of an intervention with friends and family close to the addict. Consult the signs listed above and see if your loved meets the criteria for addiction.
Make a plan
Consult with other individuals close to the addict and form a planning group. If possible, seek assistance from addiction professionals. Once the planning group is formed, figure out the best time and location for the intervention to take place. It’s important that the intervention take place in an environment where the addict will feel comfortable. The best venues to hold an intervention are places where it is convenient for all participants, comfortable for the addict, and that have privacy. Examples include a private home, a counselor’s office, conference room, or church. From there, discuss the order that participants would like to speak in. It may be helpful to start with persons that have the most special relationship with the addict.
Hold the Intervention
When the date of the intervention arrives, it’s helpful to be with the addict during the day to ensure that they are not actively using. If an addict is intoxicated during an intervention, their ability to think and react is jeopardized. To avoid these issues, sometimes it is best to plan for an intervention in the morning so that the addict is sober and in control. Have each member of the intervention group write down what they wish to say beforehand. It is important that a structure is followed and a positive, forthcoming environment is established. Make sure to: stay supportive, stick to the structure, and have specific treatment options in mind.
Be Prepared for Failure
Addiction is not a rational disease. While it may be obvious to everyone else that there is a problem, an addict’s brain can become warped by the influence that substance abuse wreaks upon the psyche. Do not be crushed by the addict’s refusal to seek help, and instead stay faithful to your assertion that they should seek treatment.
If you’re seeking help organizing an intervention or finding treatment for a loved one, don’t hesitate to seek out the assistance of trained professionals. If you’re looking for a drug and alcohol rehab, Landmark Recovery provides drug & and alcohol recovery centers in Louisville, KY that help addicts take the first steps towards achieving and maintaining sobriety. Our caring staff is trained in residential treatment, individual and group therapy, as well as intensive outpatient and detox treatment.