Helping a Loved One

How To Help An Addict


What are she signs and symptoms of addiction?

It is common for a person to feel fear or shame surrounding their addiction. As a result, he or she may lie or try to hide their problems from those that care about them. Watch closely for the signs of addiction before approaching your loved one about your suspicions.

Get Educated about Substance Use Disorders

If you are reading this now, you are already taking the first and most important step to helping your loved one. We understand the pain that you and your loved ones are likely feeling at this time. It is important to understand that addiction is a serious disease and your loved one may not be able to stop on his/her own. Whether your loved one is abusing legal substances such as alcohol or prescribed medications or illegal substances such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, or methamphetamines, their behavior is harming their life and the lives of the people that love them. Watching their behaviors can be mind-boggling, especially when their actions are harming themselves and others. It can be truly difficult to understand why they won’t stop using, but it is critical that you learn about the disease of addiction as much as possible so that you can gain that understanding and aid in their recovery.

Support, don’t enable.

It is natural for us to want to support our loved ones. However, enabling their addiction by offering financial support, making excuses for their behavior, or providing a place for continued use is NOT SUPPORTIVE. Now is not the time to blame them or yourself for the addiction. Now is the time to take positive action!

Find professional resources.

An individual who is struggling with substance abuse has likely tried and failed to stop many times on their own. By the time the mental and physical effects of substance abuse are apparent to loved ones, it is time to seek professional help. Fortunately, addiction is treatable, and there are many individuals that are equipped to help. A family doctor or therapist may be the first person to recommend treatment. While an individual could detox from the addictive substances in a hospital or even on their own, a multidisciplinary treatment approach is needed for long-term recovery.

Set healthy boundaries.

Addiction is a disease that will not set its own boundaries. In fact, it is a disease that in most cases, is highly invasive of the boundaries around it. That is just the nature of addiction. But, allowing addiction to infiltrate your life in ways that make you uncomfortable is not acceptable, no matter how delicate the situation. Consider setting boundaries for yourself that help protect your own personal wellbeing. Do not set boundaries that are designed to hurt the addict. For example, one of your boundaries can be that there is no substance use allowed in your home.

Seek help for yourself.

The loved ones of addicts and alcoholics often suffer a tremendous amount as a result of this disease. You may be experiencing resentment, anger, frustration, fear, etc. All of these feelings are normal. But, it is extremely important to have a safe space to air out these feelings so that you can properly work through them rather than bury them deep inside. Seek help for yourself by finding a therapist who you can meet with. Having your own therapy sessions focused directly on you and your concerns can make a world of difference.

Find community support.

Just as there is Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous for those individuals in recovery for substance use disorder, there are support groups geared towards the loved ones of those individuals. Al-Anon or Nar-Anon are two of the most common groups that hold regular, local meetings. There, you will meet with others and discuss commonly shared topics, garnering support from others while also providing it. These meetings can begin to feel like a second home, as the emotional healing and growth that can occur within them can be astounding.

Practice good-self care.

At a time when your loved one may seem on a downward spiral, the thought of taking care of yourself can seem ridiculous. But, if you want to help anyone else, you must ensure that you are as well as possible first. Therefore, make sure you continue to engage in activities that bring you joy. Get enough sleep. Exercise or be outdoors. Do whatever makes you happy, relaxed, and fulfilled. This will give you the energy you need to face this difficult disease.

How Addiction Works

To the naked eye, addiction might seem like something that a person can cure if they stop their active substance abuse. Unfortunately, however, addiction is not just a bad habit, as it is a complex disease that cannot be cured, only treated.

While it doesn’t always take a long time for someone to become addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is certainly not a process that happens overnight. What may begin as experimental or recreational use of mind-altering substances can quickly become habitual, regular use. The more frequently drugs and alcohol are abused, the more the body becomes used to having it in its system. Continuing to consume the same amount of drugs or alcohol quickly becomes ineffective, as getting high now requires taking larger doses of drugs or drinking more alcohol. When this occurs, it is known as tolerance. Tolerance continues to build in the body as a person keeps abusing an addictive substance. Eventually, because of regular substance abuse and the constant increase of how much is being consumed, a person becomes dependent on the substance that they are abusing. Dependence occurs when a person cannot stop using drugs or alcohol without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Shortly thereafter, individuals develop a psychological dependence, as they feel as though they cannot function without drugs or alcohol. When this occurs, it means an addiction has formed.

Arguably the most insidious aspect about the disease of addiction is that once a person is hooked on drugs or alcohol, those substances force structural and functional changes to occur within the brain. What then ends up happening is a repetitive cycle of addiction that can feel inescapable for not only the addict or alcoholic, but also their loved ones, too. Families of those who are struggling with addiction quickly realize that they have no control over this disease either, which can be extremely devastating.

Families and Addiction

Addiction is known as a “family disease” because of how deeply it impacts the families of those who are hooked on drugs or alcohol. The entire family unit can change in response to a family member’s addiction, creating further issues that require resolving. So when the time comes for an addict or alcoholic to get help, it can also be a time for family members to get help, too.

If you are a family member of an addict or an alcoholic, you might be wondering what options are available to help you and the rest of your family get through this. Thankfully, there are several resources you can call on at this time.

Like AA or NA for recovering addicts and alcoholics, there is Al-Anon and Nar-Anon for their loved ones. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are support groups for families who have been affected by addiction. Just like AA or NA, there are several local community meetings held on a regular basis in all corners of the country (and worldwide). These meetings bring together members of a community who have been affected by their loved one’s substance abuse and who need help of their own to manage it. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are not meetings where you will learn how to fix your addicted loved one, rather they are meetings to help you process, cope, and move forward with the effects of addiction.

While local support groups can provide priceless benefits to families impacted by addiction, sometimes there needs to be a finer focus on the specific issues that are affecting you personally. Seeing a certified therapist for individual therapy sessions is critical in a situation such as this, as your sessions can help you understand addiction better, process resentments, sort out many fluctuating emotions, and empower you to begin functioning in a manner that protects your wellbeing without hurting the wellbeing of others.

Arguably one of the best ways that you and your family can help yourself, however, is by attending family therapy.

Importance of Family Therapy

Family therapy gives all members of a family the opportunity to work through their shared issues with one another. It is an effective, evidence-based resource and is even included in the majority of treatment plans for individuals attending rehab. When families participate in family therapy, they can start to repair and rebuild a healthy family unit. Family therapy is important because it does the following:

  • Improves communication — All families who have gone through the cycle of active addiction can attest that communication among one another is difficult to say the least. There are an abundance of emotions involved when addiction is present and family members tend to act on their emotions as opposed to communicating to listen and be effectively heard. With a family therapist, the family unit can come together and identify their communication needs, participate in role playing to give new communication skills a try, and work together to make sure that good communication remains a priority.
  • Addresses conflict — With addiction comes conflict. There is no way around it. Family therapy sessions offer the perfect space for families to talk about their conflicts with one another because there is a trained professional present who can help keep the discussions productive rather than combative. When families can identify and address their conflicts, they can start to heal and move forward.
  • Builds compassion — Addiction stands in the way of everything. It even makes it difficult to see family members as people who have their own emotions, feelings, and thoughts. But when involved in family therapy, all members get the opportunity to share and grow. The more information each family member has about the other, the more compassion they can build. Understanding what each other has been through and recognizing the toll can be an excellent first step in the entire family’s recovery.
  • Educates —  Not all family members know why they are behaving this way or reacting that way. Even the addict or alcoholic might not understand why they kept using without stopping despite the consequences. Family therapy gives families knowledge about addiction as a disease and how it profoundly affects everyone it touches. The more education a family has about addiction as a disease, the easier it is for them to overcome the challenges that come along with it.

Family therapy is undoubtedly one of the most imperative forms of therapy that you and your family can participate in. When everyone focuses and puts in the work, the family unit can heal and be stronger than before. At Genesis House, we provide family therapy to all of our clients and their loved ones, as we know how these benefits can truly change the lives of all involved. We welcome family members to our facility, whether it be in person, over the phone, or a video call, to ensure that we get the process of healing started and moving in the right direction.

Need Help? Act Now

At Genesis House, we know how painful substance use disorders can be for all members of the family, including the addict or alcoholic. We see the sadness, frustration, fear, and hesitation that family members experience when watching their loved one struggle with addiction. But what we also see are families who come together and build a strong foundation for themselves and their loved ones. 

We ensure that family therapy is included into all of our patients’ treatment plans so that they and their loved ones have the opportunity to heal from the devastation of addiction. Our trained, experienced mental health professionals work directly with families to help them get back on their feet. 

We know it is hard, but we can help. Reach out to us right now to learn more about how we can help you and your family today.

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