If a loved one of yours is struggling with addiction, knowing the best way to help them can be confusing, overwhelming, and frightening. Addiction can take over a person’s life, affecting every aspect of their everyday existence and their relationships with their loved ones. You may be confused and concerned, and you probably want a road map to show you how you can help. There are many dos and don’ts of helping a loved one with an alcohol or drug addiction, but the important thing to remember is that you aren’t alone. There are resources out there that can help you care for your own mental health as you help your loved one, and there are ways your loved one can help themself on the road to recovery.
1: Have Compassion
Having compassion is the first step to helping your loved one deal with their addiction. Remember that their addiction isn’t a character flaw, choice, or reflection on your own decisions, it’s a disease that hijacks the mind and can have many root causes. These include mental health difficulties and the desire to numb themself to physical or emotional pain. While you can certainly be frustrated with how their addiction causes them to act, work with a therapist to never lose sight of your end goal – having compassion and helping them find their way to recovery.
2: Anticipate Difficulties
Finding a way to get your loved one into drug and alcohol rehab and on the road to recovery is no easy task. There are many reasons why your loved one may be reluctant to start. They may feel ashamed of their addiction and fear that they will lose their friends and family by admitting they have a problem. They may be worried about the unfortunate stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction, which might expose them to ridicule from loved ones and endanger their jobs. They might simply be in denial, unable to admit that they have an addiction and need help and treatment. Focus on encouraging them to get help and being a positive presence in their life, no matter how frustrated these difficulties make you.
3: Don’t Expect Overnight Change
You need to realize that overcoming any kind of addiction doesn’t happen overnight. Long-term recovery can be a lifetime battle for some, requiring the constant support from friends, family, and professionals. Not every treatment will work for everyone, and one treatment failing can feel like an immense setback. Temper your expectations and prepare yourself for being part of your loved one’s life-long support system. The good news is that, with proper support, things will get easier over time.
4: Educate Yourself on Addiction
Educating yourself on addiction and treatment of addiction is a powerful way to help both your loved one and yourself on their journey to recovery. Learn the symptoms, available treatments, and the various paths to recovery. Talk to others supporting their loved ones through addiction recovery and learn from them how to best support your loved one and care for your own mental health. Knowledge is power, and the more you know the more prepared you will be for whatever difficulties lie ahead.
5: Learn the Difference Between Supporting and Enabling
There can sometimes be a fine line between supporting someone through their recovery and enabling their addiction. We all want to protect our loved ones, but if you’re protecting them from the consequences of their own actions then you may be enabling them to continue their behavior. Many people start off with the best of intentions and end up becoming enablers through love and desperation. Many studies have shown that people with addictions often don’t seek treatment until they are forced to face the consequences of that addiction, so supporting and helping them often means allowing them to make mistakes and being there to help in the aftermath, not protecting them from making those mistakes in the first place.
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