Family members are often in the best position to identify the addictive behaviours of loved ones. For a variety of reasons however, this is not always true. The close bond of family relationships, combined with experience, can allow alcoholics and drug addicts to evade suspicion until it is too late. This enables them to embark on a ruinous lifestyle under the nose of loved ones. Many of them go on to regret that family members did not know what they were doing sooner.
We bring this up on the assumption that you are visiting our site because either you know, or suspect, a family member has an addiction problem. Getting information from a site like ours is an important first step. Nevertheless, we caution you not to attempt to take action before seeking help from an expert.
We have devoted this family section of our website to providing you with the important information you need. Please know that we receive hundreds of phone calls from family members of addicts located all across the country. Those family members have varying degrees of knowledge that may, or may not, be helpful in addressing the addiction issues of a loved one. Trying to self-diagnose and self-treat can lead you to reach incorrect conclusions that could be detrimental to yourself, your family, and your addicted loved one.
Feel Free to Call Us
As you read the information we have provided, you may find yourself feeling terrible about your current circumstances and the actions you might be required to take. You might ask yourself questions like:
- How do I bring up the subject of addiction?
- Whom do I involve in trying to solve the problem?
- How is the rest of the family going to react?
We hear these legitimate questions all the time. We encourage you not to allow fear or doubt to make you feel bad about yourself or your family circumstances. Instead, pick up the phone and give us a call. We have heard all of these questions, and more, multiple times over the years. We want to put your mind at ease by giving you someone to talk to – someone with the knowledge and experience to listen to your problems with understanding and compassion. We have helped thousands of people work through the very same problems you and your family are dealing with right now.
One family member addicted to alcohol and drugs means the whole family suffers.
Although you might feel incredibly alone and isolated, you are really not. Unfortunately, the UK has become the alcohol and drug addiction capital of Europe. That means there are more families than you know currently undergoing similar problems. Help is available regardless of where you live; help that can provide you and your family real hope.
Signs of Potential Addiction
Addictive behaviour can include both substances and actions. In other words, we typically think of addiction in terms of alcohol, illicit drugs, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medications. However, addiction can also include things like gambling and sex.
If suspicions of addictive behaviour are indeed applicable to a member of your family, you are likely to recognise some of the common traits accompany most addictions. Those traits include:
- the individual disappearing for extended periods of time
- the social circles of the individual suddenly changing
- significant and otherwise unexplained weight loss or gain
- a sudden loss of interest in one’s own personal appearance
- frequent and unexplained mood swings
- an inexplicable change in your loved one’s financial situation
- the unexplained disappearance of personal property around the home
- your family member becoming secretive regarding the details of their life.
The traits listed above are the things you, as a family member, might recognise in the life of someone who is addicted. The addict will exhibit certain symptoms directly related to the substance or activity he or she is addicted to. Feel free to look around our site to learn more about the symptoms an addict might recognise in him or herself.
You Can’t Force the Addict to Stop
Families are often frustrated in an addiction scenario because they incorrectly assume they can simply lay down the law, thereby forcing the addict to stop doing what he or she is doing. Yet there are two problems with this line of thinking.
First, there is more to stopping addictive behaviour then just making the decision to do so. Addiction involves a psychological component that causes the alcoholic or drug addict to believe that some other person or circumstance is responsible for the misery he or she’s experiencing. The addict believes his or her addictive behaviour is the only thing enabling them to go on. Part of addiction recovery is to change that mindset.
“Families are relieved and surprised when they learn they didn’t cause the alcoholism, they can’t cure it and they can’t control it.” Al-Anon.
The other thing to consider is that addiction recovery involves a period of withdrawal when you are talking about drugs or alcohol. If an addiction is severe enough, going through withdrawal could represent a medical emergency with the potential of serious injuries or death. Attempting to force your loved one to stop without accessing medically supervised detox could end up being a mistake you will live to regret.
Most of the time, the best route to addiction recovery is by way of an addiction treatment programme offered by a residential rehab centre. You may find the prospect of investigating and selecting a rehab centre somewhat daunting; this is normal. However, Addiction Helper exists to assist you in this regard. We can also provide you with a personal account from a recovering addict who outlines his or her journey through rehab from start to finish. This account should set your mind at ease.
More Harm than Good
You may be tempted to take addiction recovery into your own hands. For example, you may think it wise to lock your addicted loved one in a room, confiscate his or her money and car keys, and completely limit their freedom in the expectation that they will come clean and immediately change their ways. We urge you not to do this sort of thing.
Addiction Helper has intervened in many cases where more harm than good was done by a family taking such actions. As we said earlier, withdrawal from drugs or alcohol can be physically dangerous if it is not medically supervised. There have been numerous cases of unsupervised detox resulting in serious physical complications and unintended deaths.
To help you understand this, consider some of the withdrawal symptoms experienced by alcoholics during detox:
- excessive sweating
- nausea and vomiting
- involuntary shaking
- delirium tremens (DT).
The last symptom on the list, delirium tremens, is a scenario in which the previously suppressed neurotransmitters in the brain suddenly become hyper-excited. This hyperexcitability can lead to excessive agitation, convulsions, and grand mal seizures. Delirium tremens are very dangerous.
Addiction Helper encourages you to seek professional help for your addicted loved one. Withdrawal from drugs and alcohol should always be medically supervised at either an NHS hospital or a private clinic. You should never attempt detox on your own.
The Long-Term Solution
Assuming you could safely bring your family member through detox without medical supervision, you still need to ask yourself whether what you have done is a long-term solution. It’s likely not. That’s because addiction is more than a physical issue. It is a psychological and emotional issue as well.
Detox is designed to break the physical addiction to drugs or alcohol. It is a necessary first step on the road to long-term recovery. However, detox needs to be followed by a comprehensive rehab programme that deals with the other side of the coin. Without professional treatment in a therapeutic setting, the recovering addict will likely return to his or her addictive behaviour at the first sign of stress or discomfort.
If your loved one is dealing with alcohol addiction, stop and consider how easily accessible alcohol is within the area you live. If it’s easy enough to get to, it becomes a constant temptation every time your loved one experiences any measure of stress. Without treating the psychological and emotional issues relating to addiction, the mind is geared toward going back to alcohol as a means of coping. Rehab therapy is used to change the thinking so that the mind is geared towards staying away from alcohol.
Intervention and CBT
There are two very important tools professionals use to deal with the psychological aspects of addiction: intervention and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Intervention begins the process of recovery; CBT is incorporated during the rehab period. Let’s look at both in more detail:
- Intervention – An intervention is a scenario in which family members confront their addicted loved one in order to motivate him or her to seek treatment. When supervised by a professional, an intervention forces the addict to see how their addictive behaviour is destroying their own life and the lives of his loved ones. Realising the harm he or she is doing to others is often the one thing that triggers the desire to get help.
- CBT – Cognitive behavioural therapy is a tool that was first developed to help those suffering from mental and emotional disorders. Researchers quickly found it was useful in treating addiction as well. CBT is a goal-oriented psychotherapeutic treatment that forces the addict to come to terms with who he or she is, what triggers addictive behaviour, and what he or she can specifically do to change their life.
When intervention and CBT are applied appropriately, they can completely transform the way the addict thinks. The good news is that both therapies can be part of a treatment programme that will enable the recovering addict to live the remainder of his or her life addiction free. The bad news is that without such treatments, relapse is likely in most cases.
Pay Attention to Warning Signs
After reading through all of this, you may still be unsure as to whether or not your family member is truly dealing with addiction. We refer you back to the traits of addiction we listed earlier on this page. Yet there are additional warning signs that point to a physical dependence on alcohol or drugs, including:
- restlessness and irritability
- increased anxiety and aggression
- shaking and tremors
- increased heart rate
If your loved one is physically dependent on alcohol or drugs, you will notice these symptoms begin to show themselves as the effects of the drugs or alcohol begin to wear off. When the addict starts feeling them, he or she knows it is time to take another drink or get another hit. They are warning sign to you that a physical dependence exists. We encourage you not to ignore these warning signs. Doing so could have a detrimental effect on the health and life of your family member.
Let Us Help
Assuming there is a family member you want to help, we urge you to seek assistance right away. Assistance is available through a number of channels including the NHS, drug and alcohol charities, support groups, professional counsellors, and private rehab clinics.
Please understand that the most severe addictions might require a residential treatment programme in a private clinic. Unfortunately, the NHS no longer is capable of providing this type of treatment due to a lack of financial resources. In some cases, your GP can provide an NHS referral to a private rehab clinic, but a lack of funding has made such referrals more difficult to come by.
Addiction Helper is here to assist you in finding the help you need for your loved one. We work with the best private rehab clinics all over the UK and beyond. If you are willing to pick up the phone and call us, we can assist you in locating the help you need. We will:
- listen to everything you have to say
- explain all available options to you
- answer any questions you might have
- advise you regarding costs and payment options
- help you make admission arrangements
- arrange for transportation if necessary.
Addiction truly is a family issue affecting not only the addict, but everyone he or she comes in contact with as well. As someone related to an addict, you may feel powerless and alone in your current circumstances. Please know that you are not. Addiction Helper will stand by your side, providing all of the assistance you need to overcome.