How do I find help for my addicted friend or family member?
One of the toughest challenges families will face is helping a friend or family member acknowledge their addiction and accept help to overcome it. There is pain and shame for everyone, but there shouldn’t be. Everyone knows someone at work, home or in their community who has struggled with an addiction. Acknowledging that there is a problem is the first step and with your healthy support, you will increase your loved one’s chance of overcoming their addiction.
My situation is not the same as others
Although each situation may appear to be different, there are many similarities in the struggles of active addiction and the things necessary to achieve recovery. No situation is identical, however there are more similarities regardless of age, sex, income, education, vocation, or relationship status.
Here are some things you should know or expect to help your friend or family member
Helping someone who is addicted or abusing substances is rarely easy, and so the best approach is to expect the unexpected. Prepare for the task to be very difficult:
- They will most likely deny that they have a problem.
- They will most likely resist changing their current lifestyle, routine or current friends who also misuse drugs and/or alcohol
- They will deny that there are consequences (especially when they won’t acknowledge the problem) that they are currently facing if they continue to misuse drugs and/or alcohol e.g., losing their job, DUI, loss of visitation,
- They will most likely get angry or embarrassed and refuse to discuss it rationally with you.
- They may flat out refuse to meet with a professional or they may speak with a professional and not be truthful.
- There is a high probability that they are engaging in the addiction to avoid dealing with other painful issues.
Slow and steady wins the race
For change to happen, you must be prepared for many obstacles. Rarely is the situation resolved quickly or easily. So be prepared. We strongly suggest that you work with an addiction professional prior to executing your plan. Discuss different strategies. You will need to be quick on your feet if you face resistance or feel as if you are being manipulated. You must stay focused and determined to go over it, under it and through it. There is no quick fix and even if they suggest there is one, don’t be naïve into believing it. Willpower isn’t enough but is necessary to help someone struggling with an addiction.
Steps to help someone overcome an addiction.
For someone to accept help, they must believe that it is the BEST OPTION. They must believe that trusting you, is better than trusting themselves to find a way out of their pain and suffering. They must believe that the fears they have of getting help is less than the fears of not getting help. The consequences must be scare them into taking a chance and accepting treatment for their addiction.
All for One and One for All
It’s important for you and others who love and respect you and your friend or family member to be on the same page. Anyone who enables the person to keep misusing their drugs and alcohol is your enemy in the sense that they are sabotaging your friend or family member’s opportunity to stop the addictive behaviour and get help for their addiction. Try to talk with them and make them understand that you cannot control their actions, but you can control your reaction to this unhealthy support. If they choose not to support you or help your loved one get help, then they are essentially okay with keeping them sick and potentially losing them to their addiction.
How to start creating healthy boundaries that lead your loved one to choosing recovery:
- No one should be making excuses for them not getting help (if they are, you must ask yourself why they want them to stay sick)
- No one should be giving them money- (this money will be used to buy drugs or alcohol which in turn keeps the cycle going or could be their last blast and cause death or injury)
- No one should be lying on their behalf (lying doesn’t protect them, help the addicted person to deal with reality)
- No one should allow them access to children while in active addiction
- No one should keep a secret for them
- No one should assume that they can do it on their own.
- No one should allow them to operate a motor vehicle or equipment while in active addiction. (this puts themselves and others at risk of injury or death)
- No one should be afraid to call the local authorities to report your loved one if they are putting themselves or someone else at risk. (this is a responsible and loving action, and could save a life)
- No one should be drinking or using drugs with your loved one (your loved one won’t respect or listen to a hypocrite)
- No one should lose control in the presence of your loved one (yelling, screaming, name calling is just loud noise, it may even delay them accepting help)
- Everyone should be willing to attend classes or sessions to help them understand addiction and what is important to know about recovery
It is very likely that a bad situation will arise and allow you an opportunity to talk to your loved one about accepting help. Be prepared for those opportunities.
Here is a list of things you should be ready for:
- Expect them to be sorry for what they have done and show some type of remorse.
- Expect them to be angry that they are in this situation
- Expect them to point fingers at everyone but themselves
- Expect them to want you to forgive them quickly and move on.
- Expect them to have a plan that will solve everything- and yet resolve nothing
- Expect them to expect you to support them regardless of what they have done.
- Expect them to beg for money, a place to stay, money for a lawyer, or for you to lie for them or keep it a secret
- Expect for them to be resistant to accepting help
- Expect them to give you stipulations on how, where or how they will go to treatment
Stay calm. Don’t engage. Be prepared to say no. Be prepared to offer them what you are comfortable offering. Don’t own their pain. Don’t own their fears. You can love them but not give them what they want. Your job is to help support them find what they need to do to get healthy again.
Remember to stay calm and discuss what you are prepared to do to help them overcome their addiction and how you are open to being part of their recovery .
Be clear on what your expectations are and what the consequences would be if they refuse to accept help or complete their recovery program.
Be loving, but firm
Remember that people who recover are always thankful for their family’s tough love. You will have the best chance to save their life if you are willing to make some changes too.
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