Your loved ones and Addiction

If you have a loved one who is battling addiction, your patience, and compassion can make the difference between them making a full recovery, with proper treatment, and their condition actually getting worse.

Substance addiction is ongoing when your loved one is unable to voluntarily stop abusing drugs or other substances, even though they know that it is negatively affecting their health. How drug addiction will affect your loved one’s body and mind is dependent on the type of drug they are abusing. Certain substances have more potent effects, while others are more addictive. Regardless of the case, if you abuse a drug long enough, chances are you will eventually develop an addiction.

If addiction is left untreated, it may eventually lead to long-term mental or physical health complications, or even death. There are several factors that determine if, and how, addicted your loved may become to a substance. Some of the major factors include:

  • The family history of your loved one. That is, do they have a family history of drug abuse and have they inherited those traits?
  • Abusing drugs at an early age
  • Existence of a mental or behavioural disorder
  • Genetics

Keep in mind that quitting an addiction isn’t a sole matter of willpower. Addiction can be extremely difficult to beat, especially without professional help. This is because drug abuse changes how the brain functions over time and causes your body to think that it cannot function normally without the influence of drugs. The manifestation of painful withdrawal symptoms when an addict tries to quit can also make stopping an addiction very difficult, and is the primary cause of most relapses.

To make sure your loved one can safely beat their addiction without experiencing pain during withdrawals, you should seek professional treatment that will help manage and minimise withdrawal symptoms, as well as reduce your loved one’s chances of suffering a relapse.

How Your Loved One’s Addiction Affects You

Addiction is difficult, not just for the person suffering from the addiction, but also for every friend and family member that cares about the addict’s wellbeing. Family members are usually the hardest hit as the addict develops new patterns of behaviour that threatens the well being and safety of the family unit as a whole.

If you have a loved one with an addiction, below are some ways their addiction may be affecting you that you aren’t even aware of.

Losing your relationship

Once an individual develops an addiction,they tend to isolate themselves from others. This can place a great strain on your relationship with the addict, and cause both of you to grow apart. Until the addiction is overcome, it will be difficult to have a healthy and happy relationship with this type of individual.

Negatively impacting your emotional state

Watching a loved one hurt themselves and ruin their life can be difficult to bear. It’s even more difficult when your loved one refuses to get help, no matter how hard you try to convince them. This can cause you to experience anxiety, depression, anger, and other emotions that will negatively impact not just your peace of mind but also your overall health. Such emotional damage is especially heavy on the addict’s wife and children.

Places a burden on you

While caring for an addict, you become burdened with the responsibility of caring for them. This is a difficult role because you want your loved one to get help, but you don’t want them to die before coming around to receiving professional help. If the addict is your spouse, you will carry the burden of caring for the rest of the family while also trying to be strong for the addict’s sake.

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Becoming isolated

While caring for your loved one’s addiction, you will likely not have time for other activities. This will cause you to become isolated from others, as you spend all your time and energy trying to keep your loved one safe and alive. This can also occur as you try to protect the addict from the judgement of others.

Financial instability

Addiction is expensive. Your loved one may begin to steal from you, or sell off family property/possessions, just to finance their habit. This can place a huge financial strain on the family as a whole. It is even more difficult if the addict is the primary financial provider for the family. Such a person will be more interested in spending whatever they have on their drug habit instead of on the family’s needs.

Physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse

Addicts are usually prone to violent and aggressive behaviour. This means that even though you are trying to help them, they may verbally or physically attack you. These attacks may also extend to other members of the family, including children. There have been reports of addicts attacking loved ones, and family, even in a sexual manner. Among couples, such an occurrence is referred to as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

Exposing you and the children to immoral behaviour

A child raised by an addict is, more often than not, likely to imitate such behaviour. Also, if one half of a couple is abusing drugs, chances are the other half will eventually join in. Thus, a loved one who is abusing drugs places everyone in the home at risk of also abusing drugs

Risk of disease

Drug addicts are at a high risk of acquiring a variety of communicable diseases due to their activities. As a spouse, said diseases may be passed to you, especially sexually transmitted diseases. Some of these diseases may include HIV and hepatitis.

These are just some of the ways your loved one’s addiction affects you and your home. This is why it is important that you do not enable an addict, and instead try to get them professional help as soon as possible.

12 Signs Your Loved One Is Struggling With Addiction

How addiction affects an individual varies from person to person. But, there are some general symptoms of addiction that are typical among most addicts. By being able to recognise these symptoms, you can quickly recognise something is wrong with a loved one, and get them professional help fast.

Warning signs that indicate your loved one is struggling with an addiction and needs help include:

  • Suddenly becoming secretive or evasive, or lying frequently. Most addicts initially go to great lengths to hide their addiction from their family, friends, and colleagues.
  • Inexplicable mood swings. Depending on the drug being abused, an addict may go through long periods of moodiness or depression, which can suddenly turn to anxiety or aggression.
  • Withdrawal from responsibilities at home or work.
  • Restlessness or becoming suddenly energetic. This is common among people abusing stimulants.
  • Changes in sleep patterns. A person who is abusing depressants may be prone to long periods of drowsiness.
  • Hiding drugs around the house.
  • Finding drug paraphernalia hidden among your loved one’s belongings.
  • Fluctuations in weight.
  • Attitude and appearance changes. This can include paying less attention to personal hygiene or engaging in risky behaviour.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities previously enjoyed.
  • Sudden or gradual loss of finances and property. An addict will spend all their money on drugs, and sell whatever they can to fund their habit. Addicts may also steal,.
  • Loss of memory. Substance abuse can cause blackouts,meaning the addict sometimes has no recollection of what happened within certain periods of time.

While a variety of other reasons may cause a loved one to exhibit one or two of the above, an addict will exhibit several of the above symptoms. If you have noticed a loved one exhibiting several of the above, pay closer attention to determine if they are actually struggling with an addiction.

What to do When a Loved One Has an Addiction

Addiction is as much a physical disorder as it is a psychological one. After trying and failing to help a loved one beat addiction, you may assume they are personally unwilling to change, but the truth is, for many, addiction isn’t a choice, as the disorder practically robs them of their ability to choose to quit and stay sober.

Once addiction sets in, it will cause the addict to believe that their body and mind cannot function normally without the influence of the drug. This is known as dependency. In the event the addict tries to suddenly stop using the drug, they will experience withdrawal symptoms within a few hours. Said withdrawal symptoms can be excruciating, and most addicts continue with their addiction simply to stave off the manifestation of such withdrawal symptoms. An addict will do almost anything to get the drug they need to avoid experiencing withdrawals.

Approach with concern

Addicts are usually defensive when confronted about their substance abuse. So, if you want to approach a loved one with an addiction, it is best to approach them with compassion, love, and concern. Such an approach has proven to be more effective in getting an addict to agree to professional help, while approaching them with accusations and blame is usually counterproductive, and may even lead to further depression.

Also, it is best not to approach an addict when they are high or when you are angry. When talking to the addict, let them know that you want what’s best for them and that you are offering your support. And, because addicts are usually oblivious of the damage their addiction is causing to themselves and others, you can enlighten the addict on how those who care about them are being hurt by their drug abuse. This approach may not work the first time, and may take several tries before the addict finally comes around to seeking professional help, but it is typically more productive than being confrontational.

Familiarise yourself with the rehabilitation process

Even though you want to be there to help, you will likely not be able to see your loved one during the early periods of drug rehabilitation. This is because your presence may prove to be a distraction during this stage of treatment. But rather than worry about how your loved one is doing, if you are familiar with the rehab process, you will know theyare in good hands, and be able to keep track of their recovery in rehab.

Once the initial phases of rehab are completed, you may visit them, and can even join family counselling sessions. It is a great opportunity to ask questions, learn how to help your loved one in the future with substance abuse, and also talk to a professional about how the addiction has affected your life.

Become a support system

By being a support system for your loved one, you can help them avoid temptation by talking and listening to them. You can also help them combat drug cravings by participating in fun and relaxing activities together.

Your help and support is vital to helping an addict adjust to living a sober and drug-free life. This is because most addicts, after rehab, are faced with the same stressors and triggers that caused them to previously abuse drugs. But, with the support of their loved ones, the recovering addict will be better able to fight the temptation to once again abuse drugs. Your support can also steer a loved one away from activities and friends that may cause them to relapse.

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Be optimistic and don’t give up

For most people, relapse is a part of the recovery process. So, if your loved one suffers a relapse after rehab, don’t give up on them. When an addict suffers a relapse, they may feel shame or guilt. These feelings may drive them to relapse again. So, rather than judge them, offer gentle encouragement and help your loved one get back on track. A relapse isn’t necessarily a permanent failure unless you let it become that. If your loved one was able to get clean once, you can help them accomplish it again

Protect yourself

Due to how addiction affects the brain and emotional state, your loved one, who’s abusing substances, may become unpredictable. Addicts can be prone to violent behaviour or unprovoked acts of aggression against those around them. So, while trying to help, make sure you are not in any way in danger. This is why it is usually advised that you don’t try to confront an addict on your own.

If you believe your loved one is manipulative, or a danger to themselves or others, seek professional help, and keep your distance if necessary, until the addict is more approachable. Your support and love may be necessary, but that doesn’t mean that you should sacrifice your wellbeing and safety.

Encouraging a Loved One to Seek Treatment for Addiction

Applying the following can be useful in encouraging your loved one to seek treatment and commit to overcoming addiction:

  • Stay calm, regardless of what happens. Drug users are often on edge so you need to stay calm in order to keep them at ease. It’s also important that the conversation doesn’t turn into a shouting match, or an opportunity to vent out your frustrations concerning the addict. And, furthermore, avoid being drawn into an argument by the addict.
  • Avoid being accusatory. Being accusatory can lead to the addict becoming defensive. Keep in mind that drug abuse is a disease that’s beyond the addict’s control, and you need to show compassion when trying to convince the addict to get help.
  • Try to communicate to your loved onehow their condition is affecting family and friends. This is important because, most of the time, the addict is only focused on the high, and fails to recognise the damage they are causing to themselves or loved ones. You can help the addict get past their denial by showing clear examples of how their actions have negatively impacted those around them.
  • For best results, it’s better to confront a loved one about substance abuse during moments of sobriety. If they aren’t high or too strung out, they will be better able to focus on what you have to say.
  • Don’t do it alone. Not only is confronting a drug user alone unsafe, it might not yield satisfying results. An intervention is more powerful when the most important people in the life of the addict are there to tell them the truth.

Other tips that can help with a confrontation include;

  • Listen to the drug user’s side of the story. Sometimes, there is an underlying cause for a person’s drug dependence. By identifying what led the person to drugs in the first place, you will have a better idea of what triggers to remove from the addict’s life, that might drive them again to hide under the influence of drugs. Also, giving the addict a chance to speak makes them more comfortable with confiding in you.
  • Put your foot down. While being sympathetic and compassionate, you also have to let an addict know that there are consequences if they don’t actually try to quit. However, make sure you aren’t simply bluffing, because if the promised consequences don’t occur, the addict will likely not take you seriously afterwards.

6 Things to Say to Your Addicted Loved One

If you intend on confronting your addicted loved one about their substance abuse, below are a few choice words you can use to get through and convince them to get professional treatment:

What can I do to help you?

Make it clear to your loved one that you are offering help with getting treatment for their addiction, not helping to enable their addiction or drug abuse. Your loved one may try to turn it around by asking you for money or something that will help maintain their addiction. Don’t fall for it. Be firm and let them know that the only help you are willing to provide is help with getting into an addiction treatment programme. Even if your first attempt using these words doesn’t get the desired result, it’s possible you have let your loved one know that you are there, and will be there for them, when they are ready for help

I need to tell you how I really feel

Letting your loved one know and understand how their drug habit is hurting you can serve as a catalyst to convince them to get help. Most of the time, addicts don’t know how destructive their habit is, and how badly they have hurt others on their path to getting high. Speak to your loved one honestly, in a simple and direct way, to let them know the pain being caused by their actions. If you try to protect the addict from the pain being caused by their actions, you may make them feel that there’s nothing wrong with their behaviour and that no one is getting hurt.

Everyone needs help

These words will let your loved one know that there’s nothing wrong with getting help with their addiction. Talk about getting help with your addicted loved one, and let them know that getting help is the bravest and best thing to do for the sake of everyone.

It’s not your fault

Substance addiction is a disease. Basically no one starts off abusing drugs with the intent of becoming an addict and a slave to their habit. Some people are even simply more genetically predisposed to becoming addicts. By letting your loved one know that it is not their fault that they have become an addict, it may help convince them in some way to get help. Your loved one may not be responsible for becoming an addict, but it is their responsibility to seek recovery and set things right.

Things can get better

An addict may feel hopeless and believe that they are doomed to a lifetime of addiction. This doesn’t have to be true. Simply take the time to encourage your loved one, and show them that things will get better as long as they are willing to make the choice to get professional help. Remind your loved one that they have a choice, and don’t have to languish in the pain of being an addict if they seek treatment and pursue a better way to live.

You’re not alone

Don’t just say it, show your loved one that you care, and that they are not alone if they need help. Addiction is quite a common disorder and many addicts feel like they have no one to support them because of their self-imposed isolation. Be sure to let your loved one know that you are always there and willing to listen without judging them.

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How to Cope with Loved Ones Substance Abuse

Having a loved one with a substance abuse problem can be extremely trying. But, the problem can be less difficult to deal with if you have the right coping tools that will guide you on the best course of action to take as the situation demands. Some of the best coping strategies for dealing with a loved one’s substance abuse problem include:

Make sure that you are safe

Addicts can behave unpredictably and dangerously, especially when they’re high or going through withdrawals. Their erratic actions and moods can endanger you and anyone else that’s around them at that point in time. Even though you want to help your loved one, put your safety first because you can’t help anyone if you are hurt. If living with a loved one whose behaviour has become threatening, and is endangering your safety, consider putting some distance between you and them and getting outside help

Educate yourself about substance abuse

The more you know, the better your position will be. If you remain clueless about a loved one’s addiction, your ability to help them, or even help yourself will be far more difficult. The more you understand about substance abuse, the better the understanding you will have about what your loved one is going through and what treatment options are available.

And because addiction will differ based on the substance being abused, education concerning the drug being abused will help you recognise, and understand, the changes in your loved one’s behaviour patterns, as well as the unique health risks posed by their specific addiction.

Substance abuse is a disease

You need to come to the understanding that substance abuse is a disease and a true addict really has no true control over their actions. This is why convincing your loved one to get professional help is mandatory. But don’t try to cover up for your loved one, as this might enable them to continue with their substance abuse.

Communicate your feelings with your addicted loved one

Share your unhappiness and hurt with your loved one about their drug habit. Be honest. But don’t be confrontational or judgemental while expressing yourself. Being honest about your pain may encourage your loved one to actually seek help, as they will understand their actions are hurting those who care about them. Also, remember that you talking to your addicted loved one isn’t just a time to express yourself, but also an opportunity to hear what the addict has to say. This strategy is best used when the addict isn’t high or strung out.

Take care of yourself

While helping your loved one beat their addiction may be a priority, it shouldn’t be to the detriment of your own health. Be sure to take the time to take care of yourself properly. There’s no reason to feel guilty about enjoying yourself or being with friends just because a loved one is an addict. If you place too much stress on yourself to save a loved one, you may not be able to cope until your loved one is ready to get the help they need.

Figuring out who/what is to blame for the addiction

Regardless of how or why your loved one became an addict, you need to bear in mind that it isn’t any fault of yours. Addiction is not something you, or anyone else, can force on someone. An addict going through withdrawals can be quick to blame you for their suffering, but always remember that you are not to blame for your loved one’s drug or alcohol abuse. An addict is also not to blame for addiction, but it is their responsibility to make the choice and accept seeking treatment. Your job is simply to help the addict realise that they need professional treatment.

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Understanding enabling and codependency

A co-dependent relationship is when you and a substance abuser are together and you are enabling their drug abuse behaviour. Enabling can involve covering up for the addict, financing their habit, or providing comforts that allow them to easier pursue their drug habits. You taking care of the addicted loved one even though they won’t get help can contribute to them continuing with substance abuse. You may think you are helping your loved one by providing for them, but, in actuality, you are only investing your resources in helping them continue abusing drugs.

Signs You Are Enabling Your Loved One’s Addiction

Enabling the addiction of your loved one does more harm than good, even if you don’t mean it to. In order to tell the difference between if you are actually helping a loved one or simply enabling their addiction, there are certain things you need to understand.

Signs of enabling an addiction include:

Covering up for your loved one

Drug abuse often inhibits an individual’s ability to act rationally or responsibly. It also often impedes the ability of an individual to complete tasks and fulfil their responsibilities. Thus, an addict will be unable to fulfil typical family obligations or work duties. But, as an enabler, you may cover up for a loved one by lying on their behalf to cover up for their drug-fuelled mistakes.

Picking up the slack

When an addict is no longer able to fulfil their responsibilities at home, an enabler will take up the responsibilities and do the job of the addict. An example may include picking up the financial responsibilities of the addict or stepping in their place for chores or other obligations. This overcompensation will give an addict more time to pursue their drug habits.

Abusing substances too

In certain cases, the enabler may join the addict in using drugs with the aim of having fun, or in a misguided attempt to connect with the addict. Such enabling behaviour is counterproductive, and yet quite common.

Embracing denial

The enabler chooses to ignore that their loved one has an addiction problem. This is usually done as a form of unhealthy coping or as a protective mechanism. Such denial tends to begin as the enabler is unable to convince the addict to quit and is overwhelmed by the situation. In such a situation it is easier, but not healthy, for the enabler to simply pretend that there isn’t a problem.

Suppressing emotions

Due to fear of pushing away or upsetting the addict, an enabler will suppress or downplay their emotions concerning the loved one’s drug problem. This is done to avoid any confrontation, but it is unhealthy and counterproductive for both the addict and the enabler.

When to Use Intervention

Experts commonly state that the best time to make use of a professional intervention programme is as soon as addiction is noticed. But, because noticing addiction may at times be tricky, it may be difficult to call for an intervention programme at the earliest moment needed.

Addiction is more noticeable if the changes in your loved one are blatant rather than subtle. In this scenario, it’s easier to quickly decide to make use of an intervention program. For instance, if your soft-spoken loved one suddenly develops a loud and aggressive personality, it may be due to drug abuse, and this is a perfect sign for you to promptly make use of an intervention. Other obvious signs could be drug paraphernalia hidden around the house, or bruises and needle marks from intravenous drug use.

The signs could also be subtle and not easily discernible, such as unexplained financial losses, lying, or lack of interest in social activities the individual normally enjoyed, there also could be reduced personal hygiene, or extreme weight loss. These could all be signs of drug abuse that indicate a professional intervention is needed immediately.

Interventionists are professionals with the training to help you plan and stage an effective intervention that will convince your loved one to get addiction treatment. By talking to a qualified interventionist, you will have the tools necessary to convince your loved one to seek proper treatment for their addiction.

How to Stop Enabling an Addict and Set Boundaries

You can stop enabling your loved one’s addiction by setting and maintaining clear boundaries. Typically, addicts live their lives with no clear set of boundaries. This can be seen in how they fail to plan for anything, and do not care about the consequences of their actions. They are also usually not interested in social conventions or manners such as apologising, respecting personal space or property, following procedure, waiting their turn, and so on.

If you want to help your loved one without enabling them, you have to demonstrate through your words and actions that your addicted loved one’s behaviour will not be tolerated. You have to lay down boundaries that will serve to curb their addiction and addictive behaviours. This can be accomplished by setting and maintaining your own clear boundaries, and being consistent with your messages on the matter. You also have to show that there are consequences for breaching your boundaries.

Without consequences for breaching your boundaries, an addict will not have any reason to listen to you or change. By setting and maintaining boundaries, you will not be providing an environment that sustains your loved one’s addiction. And when the addict experiences the consequences of breaching your boundaries, they will be forced to take responsibility for their actions and learn from the experience.

Examples of healthy boundaries include:

  • I won’t allow any drug paraphernalia in my house
  • I won’t allow any drug-using friends in my house
  • I won’t give you money for anything
  • If you end up in jail, I won’t bail you out or call a lawyer

Exploring Treatment Options

Addiction is treatable and there are a number of treatment options available that can be used to the benefit of your addicted loved one.

You can start by staging an intervention with the help of a professional. This will provide an avenue for the addicted person to be faced by loved ones who will share how the drug addict’s destructive ways are affecting everyone. Interventions can be useful in encouraging an addicted loved one to seek treatment.

Once an addict agrees to treatment, the first step in treatment is a detox program. A medically assisted detox programme will help your loved one safely get past their withdrawal symptoms as comfortably as possible. Inpatient or outpatient detox programmes can significantly minimise painful withdrawal symptoms.

After detox has been successfully completed, it should be promptly followed by an inpatient or outpatient rehab programme.

This will take care of the psychological aspects of your loved one’s addiction and bring them one step closer to making a full recovery.

In rehab, behavioural therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), maybe used to help your loved one. CBT will help your loved one learn how to cope with the negative thoughts and emotions related to their substance abuse. CBT will also teach an addict how to cope with stressors that normally cause them to abuse drugs, as well as how to live a healthy and addiction-free life.

Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous can help your loved one, during and after rehab, to stay committed to sobriety long term.

There are lots of options available to help your loved one beat addiction. Call a confidential addiction helpline today to discover what treatment options are most suitable for helping your loved one’s unique circumstances.

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