When A Loved One is Struggling with an Addiction – 6 Steps To Take

When a Loved One Has An Addiction - 6 Steps to Take

If your loved one is fighting addiction or even struggling with mental illness and an addiction, you may be wondering how you can help. You don’t want to become an enabler, as this will only make the addiction worse. Yet it’s an equally scary feeling to cut off your loved one until they get clean. So what can you do?

When a loved one has an addiction.

  1. Get educated.

    Addiction is a disease. If you found out that your loved one had an illness, you would research it. Do the same for addiction. Read about the signs and symptoms of substance abuse, the reasons why it occurs and how to be an active support person.

  2. Observe their behavior.

    Take a few days to observe the behavior of your loved one. It’s a good idea to have clear examples of the types of behavior that concern you. Share this information with other key family members and determine how to approach the situation.

  3. Talk to a professional

    Speak with a substance abuse specialist, guidance counselor, mental health expert or other helpful professional. This person can guide you in the right direction. They may recommend staging an intervention. They can also help with developing a safety plan if you feel that your loved one could be a threat.

  4. Line up a treatment center.

    Depending on the situation, your loved one may need professional intervention to change their ways. Before staging an intervention, have a treatment center picked out. You don’t want any delays between the intervention and treatment, otherwise your loved one may try to manipulate you or change their mind. Give them an ultimatum: It’s treatment or being cut off from the family, for example. Make sure you are specific and clear with the ultimatum. I.e.: If they don’t accept treatment then they are going to be cut off financially, from seeing or spending time with family members or their children, no more “crashing” or housing at family members’ homes, etc.

  5. Attend family support groups.

    Just as your loved one will require therapy to understand their harmful behaviors and negative patterns of thinking, you need therapy to deal with your emotions. Addiction takes a toll on the family unit, so deal with your feelings head on. Find support groups in your area through Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.

  6. Be active in their recovery.

    Continue to be an active support person in your loved one’s recovery. You can support them without supporting their habit. Attend family therapy sessions, communicate with their doctors and counselors and support their aftercare plan when they return from treatment.

It’s important to remember that you cannot change your loved one’s behavior. The only behavior you can change is your own.

Learn more about what to do if your loved one is suffering from both a mental illness and addiction by reading this blog.

Please take the time and share this with anyone you know who has a loved one who is struggling with addiction. Now is the time – Please don’t wait.


About the Author

This post first appeared on the website of The Dunes East Hampton Rehab Center and is reprinted here with full permission. The author wishes to remain anonymous.

7 Comments

Mary

Hi what about hearing from a person who has an addiction? I agree with a lot that’s already been said but am interested in what a person with an addiction has to say.

Reply
Jacques

I don’t know what to say, especially when they have been caught up for years. If they don’t want to change, its tough.

Reply
Martha-M

My 24 yr old grandson had been clean for years; has started back using; making unwise choices. I go to Naranon group. My 11yr old grandaughter, his sister asks for help understanding. Our family doesn’t talk about this together. I ask my daughter questions; feels she is upset with me. I’ve reached out to my addict; sometimes he comments but we don’t see each other. I don’t see their family much. They are busy. Time passes; it feels we are further apart.

Reply
Barbara Couturier

They accused me of being addicted to my Oxy or Percocet.
I stopped taking them.
I took Ambien, my Daughter’s Husband worked nights and would come home and play with his dogs in the kitchen above my head.
Their autistic boy sweet sweet Memphis, would have bad dreams, and sit at the bottom of the stairs and cry.

I heard him they did not.

The kids had no bedtimes, no rituals, no books, no bedtime stories. Just horrible tv games about killing that the parents played.

When they ask me to leave “I want you out of here yesterday” my bank account was $57,164.66 lighter.
That was four years ago, I have not been allowed to see my Grandkids since

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Barbara this is such an awful thing for you to go through. I know how much you are struggling, and it’s completely understandable given the loss of the relationship with your daughter and your grandchildren. I imagine you would be such a loving and committed grandmother. I hope that one day your grandchildren are able to know how much you love and miss them. They deserve that, and so do you.

Reply
Meejon

So many questions answered,thank you,I dont even know how I got to this sight.

Reply

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One of our rituals was in the week before Christmas, we’d go shopping and each kiddo would choose a keepsake decoration for the tree. This would forever be their decoration. To make sure we’d remember who owned what (a year is a long time!) I wrote their name and year on the box. The idea is that when they leave home, they’ll have a collection of special decorations for their own tree, plump with throwbacks (‘Oh I remember when we bought this!).

Then of course there was Christmas morning. Santa would leave a note on the table and bootprints on the front path, which smelled remarkably like talcum powder. So magical the way the snow was under the boot and never melted, even in an Australian summer! But that’s the magic of Christmas, right?!

We often put so much pressure on ourselves to make Christmas magical. Rituals can make this easier. They get the special memories, you get to make the ‘magic’ without having to come up with something new and different each year.

It’s very likely that there will already be Christmas rituals happening in your family, even if you don’t realise it. Ask them what they remember most, or what they loved most about last Christmas, aside from the presents.

They might surprise you with things you’d completely forgotten about, or which at the time didn’t seem to be a biggie. It can be the simplest things. Maybe they loved the way they were allowed to have ice-cream with pancakes at breakfast last Christmas. (Ice-cream at breakfast?! Told you Christmas was magical!!). 

If it’s what they remember, and if it lights them up, let it become a ‘thing’. Maybe they loved the magic ‘neverending carrot’ sprinkles you put on the scrawny carrot you found in the vege drawer (remembering reindeer groceries can be so hard sometimes!)

You’d be surprised what they find special. It doesn’t have to be big to feel magical.

What are your Christmas rituals? Let’s share ideas in the comments.♥️
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It can feel as though the only way to strengthen them against their anxiety is to make sure they have nothing to worry about, but when their worries are real this might not happen quickly. 

Instead, we need to focus on helping them know that even though those worries are there, they will be okay. ‘Not worrying’ isn’t the antidote to anxiety, trust is. This will start with trust in you and your belief that they will be okay, and trust in your reaction if things don’t go to plan. Eventually, as they grow this will expand into trust in themselves and their own capacity to find their way through challenges to a place of hope and strength. 
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Strong steady breathing will reverse the fight or flight physiology that causes nausea, butterflies, or sick or sore tummies during anxiety. BUT telling an anxious brain to take a strong steady breath will potentially make anxiety worse unless strong steady breathing feels familiar. Practising during calm times will make it familiar. 

During anxiety we’re dealing with their amygdala, and it wants short shallow breathing to conserve oxygen. It doesn’t want strong steady breathing and will work hard to resist this. 

An anxious brain is a busy brain and it will be less able to do anything unfamiliar. A few minutes of strong steady breathing each day will set up a strong neural pathway to make strong breathing more automatic and accessible during anxiety. 

In the meantime though, you can do it for them. This is the magic of co-regulation. When you do strong steady breathing during their anxiety, it will calm your nervous system which will eventually calm theirs. You will catch their anxiety, and this will feed into their anxiety. Your strong steady breathing is the circuit breaker. They will catch your anxiety, but they will also catch your calm. Don’t worry if this takes a few minutes (and maybe a few more after that). Anxious brains are strong, powerful, beautiful brains working hard to protect. Breathe and be with. This will open the way for that distressed young nervous system to find its way home. And you don’t need to do more than that.♥️
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Needs and behaviour can get tangled up and treated as one. When you can, separate the need from the behaviour. Give voice to the need - let it find a way to breathe - and redirect the behaviour. 

The need might always be clear, especially if it’s being smothered by angry shouting words. If we stifle the behaviour without acknowledging the need, the need stays hungry. Help usher it into the light by making it clear that you’re ready to receive it. Then wait. Wait for the big behaviour to ease, for bodies to calm, and angry voices to soften - but keep the way to you open. ‘You’re a great kid and I know you know that behaviour wasn’t okay. Talk to me about what’s happening for you.’

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