Helping a loved one who struggles with addiction is challenging. Families who try to be there for them may receive a lot of advice and this can be quite confusing. You may hear that, as a family member, “You are part of the major influences in his or her life.” This is often true. But, then, you will also encounter the “three C’s” of recovering from addiction: you are not the cause, you are not the cure, and you are not in control. There are two conflicting ways of looking the situation. How can families help their loved ones who are struggling with addiction? We caught up with Kaiser Wellness Center director Dr Maher Soudah for guidance.
Here are some things you can and cannot do to help a loved one who’s an addict.
First thing you CANNOT do is to intervene and make them stop. This is easier said than done because you cannot make someone who is drug-dependent just quit because you said so. You can tell them what to do and encourage them but, in the end, they still need to commit to stopping. Even in those states where involuntary treatment is allowed, you cannot just make people turn sober.
Second is undergoing the process of recovery for them. For loved ones sent to rehab, you cannot do all the work needed for recovery, no matter how “difficult” your family member says they are. In fact, some addicts, even those who have already recovered for a long time, are still not safe from relapse. Just like other chronic illnesses, those who struggle with addiction may also need multiple sessions of treatment.
Third is that you cannot just accept the behavior that goes beyond your set boundaries just because you’re too exhausted. To avoid enabling, you need to set limits. You must be firm in the decision because tolerating the violations makes you and other family members less credible. This can make your loved ones continue with the addiction.
“You have to mean what you say and say what you mean,” says Dr Maher Soudah. “They will certainly be mad at you at the beginning but, over time, they will see the value of your actions.”
Meanwhile, here are the things that you CAN do to help to your loved one who’s suffering from addiction.
First is to educate yourself. You need to know more about addiction. What the signs are, what kind of treatments are available, what triggers a relapse, and more. You can talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol at a young age, so they are aware of what it might do to them if they try it. Although, there is no assurance that your kids will make the right decisions in the future, but it can be a way of preventing substance abuse.
Second is to take care of yourself. You need to make sure you are okay to support and encourage your loved one. You may feel a lot of pain or grief when someone you love is suffering from substance abuse, and each one of us has different ways of coping and grieving. Acknowledge that the problem exists and then find ways to cope. Denying it will only aggravate the situation for your entire family.
“You cannot help others if you don’t help yourself first,” advises Dr Soudah. “Similar to putting on an oxygen mask in an airplane, you have to wear your own first before reaching out to help your kids. Otherwise, everybody will suffer.”
Third is talking about the problem. It will be good for the one suffering from addiction and your loved ones, as well. Someone who is drug-dependent may find it difficult to come to you and ask for help. If you can see through the lies and manipulation, an open conversation is your best hope to be there for them when they need you the most.
Dealing with addiction can be difficult, both for the substance-dependent and his or her loved ones. There are some things that can be hard to accept but, at least, there are measures you can take to help yourself and those who suffer from substance abuse. Dr. Soudah and the team at Kaiser Wellness Center offer different forms of therapy to help addicts find their way back home. If you or your loved is in need of help, call them at 830-583-9300.