Imagine watching a loved one sinking beneath water. You reach out your hand, but they decline. They sink further. You’re afraid you’re going to lose them and you feel completely helpless. This is what it’s like to love an addict. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can help.
When someone is addicted, they have to want to change. Recovery is a long and difficult path, and they need to commit mentally and physically. Your role is a supportive one.
Here are some tips to help a loved one get sober.
Addiction is a disease that comes with a major stigma. People tend to judge addicts because they don’t truly understand addiction and how it works. Addiction is a disease that affects the brain.
As soon as someone uses drugs or alcohol, the brain changes. Most drugs affect the neurotransmitter dopamine in some way. Dopamine regulates moods, enhances pleasure and helps reinforce pleasurable behaviors. But that’s not the only part of the brain that’s affected. Drug abuse impacts the brain stem, limbic system and cerebral cortex. The brain stem is responsible for functions that sustain life, like sleeping and breathing. The limbic system is the brain’s reward center, and it also controls your ability to feel happiness. The cerebral cortex controls problem-solving and decision-making abilities.
Addiction controls the user by controlling the brain. The more someone uses drugs, the more they take over. This is a disease. It’s not your loved one’s fault that he or she got addicted. People may make the choice to use a drug initially, but no one chooses to become an addict.
Because we love deeply, sometimes we enable. Addicts can be persuasive and manipulative. You may find yourself giving in on things you know you shouldn’t.
Before you make any decisions, think about whether your actions will help your loved one use. If the answer is yes, you’re enabling. This is a tricky one because enabling can feel like you’re helping. Anything you do to help an addict get drugs isn’t helping.
Talk about the problem
Addiction isn’t a problem that should be swept under the rug. Although these conversations are uncomfortable, they are necessary. Talk to your loved one about his or her problem. Let them know that you’re on their side.
Avoid trying to shame them into getting help. This never works. Instead, come from a place of compassion. You understand that they’re struggling and you want to help.
When you talk to an addict, you’re subjecting yourself to lies and manipulation. Know this before you start. Don’t let them talk you into anything but helping them to a detoxification center.
Take care of yourself
Whenever your loved one is ready, you’ll need to spring into action. Until then, take care of yourself. The process of recovery is difficult on the addict, but it can also be difficult on their loved ones.
Find a healthy outlet for stress now. When you’re in the thick of recovery with your loved one, you’ll need healthy outlets to help deal with the stresses that will inevitably come.
Research detox and rehab programs
When your loved one decides to get help, time is of the essence. If you already have a plan, it’ll be quicker and easier to get that person into a program.
Look for programs that accept your loved one’s insurance and suit his or her beliefs. There are many religious and secular programs, so you should be able to find one in your area. If you’re in the U.S., check this directory to find rehabs near you. If you’re in another country, check with the International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals.
If he or she hasn’t committed to getting help, it’s too early to make actual arrangements. Still, your plan will come in handy when the time comes.
It’s a heart-wrenching experience to watch your loved one fall into the throws of addiction. It’s normal to feel a little helpless as he or she takes on a new life and personality. And while there’s nothing you can do to physically change their mind, you can continue to encourage them to get help. They will remember your kind and compassionate words and will likely turn to you when they’re ready to get sober.