How Family Can Help a Drug-Addicted Loved One
When a member of your family is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the effects can be hard to deal with. On one hand, it pains a family when one of their own suffers. You’ll do anything to help them because you love them. On the other, deep down, you know that enabling their substance abuse is only harming them further. Unfortunately, when you’re close to a situation, you may not realize how subtle enabling can actually be.
There are many ways that a family can help a drug- or alcohol-addicted loved one. From helping to pay for rehab to simply being tough when it’s called for, you can make a difference in the life of your family member.
Do Not Enable Addictive Behaviors
Addictive behaviors include a myriad of phases and techniques which an addict will use, sometimes without even realizing they are doing it, to get what they need. These techniques include:
- Anger or withholding of affection
- Sympathy-seeking behavior
One of the most difficult but effective ways to help your loved one is to not buy into these maneuverings. For instance, if your addicted family member states they need a few hundred dollars to keep their power on, chances are they have spent money on their addiction rather than paying their electric bill. Paying the bill for them will only serve to tell them they have done nothing wrong by not living up to their responsibilities. There is also the chance they will use the money loaned to them for a legitimate purpose to buy drugs or alcohol to further their addictive behaviors.
Instead, offer to help them pay for treatment.
Do Not Assist the Addict
When your child, parent, sibling or other person close to you is unwell, it is difficult not to offer assistance. When they fall down, we want to pick them up. When they are in withdrawal, in the case of addiction, we want to help them through it any way we can.
While a licensed detox facility will medicate an addict in withdrawal to wean them from the effects of their preferred drugs, it is unwise for a layperson or family member to use this technique while the addict is simply unable to “score” their drugs for the moment. Giving a heroin addict your prescription pain meds when they ask for them to “get them through” is a crime. It is also unhealthy for the addict and only serves to remind them that you can be counted upon to enable them.
An Intervention is the process through which the family and friends of an addicted individual confront the addict to get them help they need. By uniting forces, each member of the intervention group can speak their mind to the addict to let them know several basic facts:
- That they are loved
- That they are ill and need help
- That they have an opportunity to get help immediately
- That the intervention group will support them emotionally throughout the process
The notion that an addict must hit his or her own personal “rock bottom” in order to effectively seek recovery has been modified through the intervention model. It is possible for family members to “raise the bottom” for the addict by showing them in a structured setting, under strict control parameters, the effect their drug use has had on them, as well as their entire family.