You can play an important role in helping a loved one or Friend with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders get on the road to recovery. If you’re the loved one of someone struggling with addiction, you may have many questions and concerns, such as:
- How to deal with addiction
- How to support your loved one
- Where to find support and resources
A crucial pillar to alcohol, drug, or any other addiction recovery is having a loving support system. Unfortunately, the stigma around mental illness and addiction results in a lack of knowledge, and therefore those supporting someone in recovery may have no idea where to start. The rate of addiction is astounding and increasing with a reported 19.7 million Americans age 12 and older battled a substance use disorder in 2017.
Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The most prevalent addictions include Tobacco, Alcohol, Marijuana, and Painkillers. Above all, the most important thing to know is recovery is possible.
Due to the overwhelming stigma attached to addiction, there are quite a few misunderstandings and stereotypes you may have internalized. Start by learning about mental health disorders, addiction, and integrated treatment. Integrated treatment addresses all co-occurring disorders at the same time. You can use different strategies to support a loved one’s recovery.
When an addiction develops, family members and friends are also often directly impacted by the addiction. That’s why, in addition to taking steps to help get your loved one into a treatment program, it’s important for family members and friends to have a good understanding of addiction and how to continue to take care of their own health as well. This helps you provide the love and support the addicted person needs in order to heal.
We’ll set a few things straight so you can be the best support you can be.
What it Looks Like
Addiction causes, behaviors, and treatments will look different for each person. Some of the main risk factors and causes for addiction include: Genetics, Environmental Factors, and mental illness. Addiction will interfere with daily life, relationships, career, and day to day responsibilities.
Drug Addiction is a Choice
The initial decision to use drugs was likely voluntary, but the subsequent drug use is the result of brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist urges to take them.
It is not a matter of “just stopping,” addiction alters the brain, creating powerful cravings and compulsive use.
You Can’t Help an Addict
This is a harmful belief. While it’s true this is a brain-altering disease that will require a lot of work to overcome, support, and connection to help are important. Addicts don’t need to hit rock bottom and don’t have to want help for your support and programs to make a difference. Most addicts aren’t ready for help, but the sooner it’s started, the better.
HOW TO SUPPORT AN ADDICT
It may be a rocky road getting your loved one to take recovery seriously; Unfortunately, 90% of people who would benefit need drug rehab don’t receive it. The goal may be to get your loved one into professional help, but if this isn’t realistic at the moment, there are some ways you can help.
Support before Recovery
If your loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, it is crucial you remain a person they can trust and confide in. Focus on building a strong relationship where you are there for them and are a safe place where they can come for help.
As you build trust, be honest and share your love and concern for them. Educate yourself about addiction and what to expect. Be frank about treatment and options for help with addiction, but do not show judgment, insulting them, or force anything.
Also, take care of yourself. Supporting someone with an addiction is exhausting and can have a negative impact on your own mental health. Consider therapy for yourself to be sure you’re able to give the support they need.
Support in Recovery
Your loved one has finally agreed to move forward with recovery. This is an incredible milestone, but there are still things to keep in mind to be the best support you can be.
- Therapy, group therapy, and other routes of recovery are deeply personal and private. Unless they are offering information, don’t expect these things to be shared.
- Don’t enable it! This means you need to disconnect yourself from their decisions and allow them to feel the impact of their addiction (financially or whatever that may be).
- Have realistic expectations: It would be great if an addict was just a few days away from a sober life once they decided to take it seriously, but it does take a lot of effort and their body will be sending every signal to give in.
WHEN IN DOUBT, BE THERE
The ins and outs of addiction, mental illness, rehabilitation, recovery, and relapse can feel daunting. It’s normal to feel scared and unsure where you fit in your loved one’s life as they struggle with addiction. While your love, understanding, and support are huge in their effort to recover, you can’t forget about caring for yourself. When it feels like too much, take a step back.