Family Help & Resources
How can I tell if my loved one is addicted?
If you’re questioning whether your loved one has an addiction, it’s probably because you have long recognized that his/her use of a substance or a compulsive behavior is disruptive to their life as well as your own, and perhaps many other people’s lives as well. However, an addiction isn’t the same as using a lot of drugs or alcohol, or too frequently partaking in an activity like sex, overeating or gambling. You can tell if your loved one is heading towards an addiction when he/she is no longer able to steer clear of the substance or activity and can’t cut back even if the desire to do so is there. You may have noticed uncontrollable cravings and that your loved one continues to use the substance or repeat the behavior no matter how much the addiction is hurting himself and those who he/she loves most. The individual with a substance use disorder will miss important deadlines, obligations and activities he/she once loved in order to use leaving you and others feeling disappointed, exhausted and emotionally spent.
If you’ve reached this point, the “drug” of choice has become your loved one’s single pleasure in life. When something or someone interferes with your loved one’s ability to use, he/she will become angry, frustrated, tearful, anxious and even worse. Signs your loved one might be using vary greatly depending on the substance(s) used, how it is taken and if a loved one recently used the substance or is currently experiencing intoxication or withdrawal symptoms. But in general here are some changes to notice:
How can I get my loved one to go to treatment?
Actually getting an individual with substance use disorder to accept treatment can be one of the biggest hurdles families face, especially when the loved one is someone over which you who you have no legal influence. At this point, you may need to find a way to finally convince your friend or family member that treatment is necessary. It’s a good idea, though, not to go it alone. Instead, enlist the help of a professional interventionist. Using various methods, an interventionist can help persuade your loved one to enter a treatment program and even help deliver him/her there. Because interventionists have been in many intense situations with individuals who became angry or violent or who flee, they know how to make a plan that will work and perhaps most important, they have a plan of action when the individual with substance misuse disorder reacts. Many interventionists have gone through addiction themselves, so they offer a “been there, seen that” perspective that often allows a person with substance use disorder to trust that treatment is a positive step.
Can I force my loved one into treatment?
In most cases you can’t force your relative or friend into treatment. The one exception is that a parent of an underage child can send their child to treatment, and some states have legislation – such as Casey’s Law in Kentucky and Ohio – that allows parents to force treatment on adult children who don’t recognize they need it. So find out what your state has already on the books to help you help your child. Here’s something else really important to know: The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary to work. That means that your loved one can be helped even if he/she goes begrudgingly in order to fulfill terms of employment or to save a marriage or retain parental custody. Intervention experts tend to agree that you should try to persuade your loved one to agree to treatment using a variety of techniques. Since it’s now understood that addiction is a chronic brain disease (not a question of willpower or a moral failing), getting an individual with substance use disorder to buy into treatment in a more loving, respectful manner is a good idea if you can manage it. Still, treatment can become the only viable option for someone who is confronted by jail time, child welfare agencies, an employer who makes treatment a requirement of employment or a spouse who’s ready to divorce.
I’ve tried everything. How can I get my loved one to stop drinking/using?
You must feel terribly frustrated, sad, angry and disappointed – among other emotions – that your partner, friend or relative won’t stop using in spite of all the times and ways you’ve tried to convince them to stop. You may already know that addiction is a chronic brain disease that’s progressive, so without help of some kind it is typically gets worse, not better. Unfortunately, though, once someone has become addicted, he/she cannot usually stop the behavior on their own, and that can mean that professional treatment is necessary. This process usually starts with going through detox (a period of time when the chemical(s) and/or behavior(s) is removed or stopped), followed by counseling and perhaps support groups to learn about addiction, how to sidestep triggers, relapse prevention and how to choose healthy activities to replace the problem use or behavior.
What if my loved one is addicted to more than one substance/behavior?
If the person you love is struggling with multiple addictions (as well as other mental disorders), they’re definitely not alone. Those who treat addiction say this is very common. Some individuals with substance use disorder may have what’s called a “co-occurring disorder” – meaning they have an addiction(s) and a mental health issue(s) such as depression, anxiety or ADHD as well. Research shows a connection between substance use (meaning drugs and/or alcohol) and also having a problem with excessive gambling, video gaming, disordered eating, Internet use and sexual behavior.
How can I support my loved one in treatment?
Knowing your loved one well, you’re in a unique position to understand what he/she might need most during this very difficult time. But because individuals with substance use disorder often behave in unusual and atypical ways, it may useful to ask this very question to your loved one’s treatment provider(s) to find out how best you can help them.In general, however, it’s important to tell your loved one that you admire his/her courage for admitting to the addiction and seeking help and that you’ll continue to offer encouragement and support as long as he/she sticks with the treatment plan.At ROAD to a Better Life we encourage families to be involved in the recovery process through family or couples therapy. These sessions are designed to improve relationships, address family problems that could perpetuate addiction (such as enabling and codependence behavior), heal past hurts and teach new, healthier ways of communicating. You may also remind your loved one that you’re just a phone call or drive away, should temptation arise. Another important step – for your loved one and for yourself – is to join a support group for family members of people with addiction, like the ones we listed in the above section.
I feel like I‘m falling apart. What are some ways to help me cope with my loved one’s addiction?
First, take heart in the fact that you’re not alone. The actions of individuals with substance use disorder, whether their “drug” of choice is heroin, alcohol, opioids, or something else, affect most everyone in their lives. And those they love are often hurt the most. If you have been living with an individual with substance use disorder it’s pretty common to feel like you’re at the end of your rope. You’ve been patient and understanding. You’ve offered help. You’ve been an active member of the treatment and recovery process – and you’re exhausted and perhaps even feeling hopeless.Unburdening yourself to people who understand first-hand what you’re going through can be a powerful and healing process. That’s why joining a support group for friends and families of individuals with substance misuse disorder is so often beneficial, even for people who never thought they’d join a group like this. This type of free self-help group will let you unburden difficult feelings, share your experiences and get helpful strategies for keeping it together. And while you may not feel like it, you have to take care of yourself. As much as you’re able, take time to exercise, eat right, get enough sleep and find ways to cope with the tremendous stress you’re feeling. If you want to keep making an effort to encourage and support your loved one, it can’t be said often enough: You have also take care of yourself.