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How to Help a Person Struggling with Addiction

A report published by the Partnership to End Addiction Society revealed that over 23.5 million Americans are currently addicted to drugs and alcohol. The number is so huge, making it almost likely to know at least one person suffering from the effects of addiction. Have you ever considered or even tried helping a person like that?

How to Help a Person Struggling with Addiction

Indeed, it can get so overwhelming sometimes. However, here are some important things to know when you take up the challenging role of helping out to make it easier for you.

Educate yourself on addiction first.

You can’t help someone struggling with addiction if you don’t first understand what it entails. Without taking the time to educate yourself on the issue, you just may be causing more harm than good. Addiction is better described as a disease than a lifestyle issue, and this clear distinction should be made before you proceed to do anything else. More so, until you educate yourself on the signs and symptoms, it’s easy to miss addiction’s apparent indicators.

Addiction patients tend to begin the act for varied reasons. For some, it’s a sheer curiosity that ultimately hooks them to this illicit activity. In other instances, some users begin the abuse to boost athletic performance or numb emotional pain. However, some medical reports indicate that addiction can be due to a genetic disposition to drug abuse.

In the case of the latter, this can be the most challenging of all addiction cases. A family history of drug abuse is inherent, and until you manage to zoom in on the root cause, everything else you do will be pointless. In many cases, casual use begins a downward spiral into addiction.

Establish trust in your dealings with a drug user

Trust is the foundation of every relationship, and it’s even more critical in this case. Mind you, while dealing with a person with addiction problems, trust must be mutual and level grounded. This means, at no point should the person you’re helping feel as though you’re superior to them. This is also the first step in sparking the thought of positive change in a substance abuser. 

Keep in mind that trust is a delicate thing and can easily be broken. Therefore, avoid harmful elements such as nagging, criticizing, name-calling, yelling, and even exaggeration. More so, in establishing trust, ensure you’re not engaged in any addiction too. For example, if you like to binge eat regularly, that is another form of addiction that gives you no justification to help another person.

To sustain trust at all times, begin conversations with varied perspectives and allow them to express their opinions as a way to validate their feelings. This will require a great deal of emotional intelligence on your part to avoid being judgemental.

Identify treatment options

Treating addiction depends mostly on the level of addiction. Generally, there are three types of therapy, namely:

In-patient rehab

This type offers treatment plans and strict options to attend to all areas of a patient’s addiction. Most importantly, the in-patient treatment program houses the patient in a monitored facility, providing therapeutic support and regular medical care. This program is the best for chronic addiction sufferers and those with drug-induced mental disorders.

Out-patient rehab

This treatment program also offers comprehensive addiction care. The only difference is that they don’t house patients in a facility. On the contrary, patients continue to live at home while they go through the recovery process. In some instances, patients can continue to work or attend to domestic responsibilities while making time for scheduled sessions. An example of an out-patient rehab can be found at https://enterhealth.com/outpatient-ocoe/.

The only downside of this treatment option is that patients are at a greater risk of facing constant triggers that could challenge the recovery path. Sometimes, the out-patient rehab option becomes a second-stage treatment place after patients have moved successfully from in-patient rehabs.

Drug and alcohol detox

The detox treatment is suitable for individuals considered as mild or moderate users. Because this treatment type fuels the ‘cold turkey’ syndrome (trying to stop taking in these substances at a go), it’s combined with medication-assisted options. These medications are gradually tapered down until the detoxing individual can resist their physical dependency on addictive substances.

Now that you know the treatment options available, it suggests to the person you’re trying to help what could work best for them. Avoid imposing what you think is the better or best option for their condition. Furthermore, you’ll need to help them understand what each treatment option comes with. There are instances where the person in question would prefer to do this independently and without your constant presence. In this case, the onus rests with you to respect their privacy in everyday life and therapy.

Communicate clearly and effectively

It’s very easy to be misunderstood by a person dealing with the effects of substance abuse. This happens because substance use tends to influence their emotions and thought processes. Its impact on the brain could limit the ability to distinguish reprimands from confidence-boosting remarks. For example, while you think it’s okay to say something like, ‘Find it within yourself to resist the temptation,’ a user is likely to interpret it as an accusatory remark on their weakness to resist the urge.

Therefore, to avoid a conflicting situation like this, you could say, ‘I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it is to resist the urge, but I know you’re more than capable of fighting it.’ Now, this carefully crafted comment becomes an automatic confidence-booster. A substance user you’re helping will likely interpret it as having an untapped power within them that is worthy of discovering.

Admittedly, effective communication can be a tricky one, especially without a strong foundation in what it entails. However, an easy way to achieve it is always to second-guess how a comment can be misconstrued. In your effort to communicate honestly, be wary of sounding patronizing, threatening, or condescending.

Expect difficulties along the way.

Deciding to help a loved one recover from substance abuse doesn’t automatically mean it’ll be a rosy path. On the contrary, it can turn out to become even more challenging than anything you’ve ever committed yourself to. Below are three things that could prove to be challenging in this quest:

  • The user may vehemently oppose admitting they have a problem
  • The user may not be willing to change
  • Fear of consequences such as going to prison if found out or losing a job if an employer got to know may prevent the user from opening-up

However, in many circumstances, it’s the embarrassment of discussing something as private as an addiction that’s the main issue. There’s no clear-cut way to help a person with an addiction, so keep an open mind regarding difficulties. The road to recovery will be bumpy, and sometimes, even you may feel like giving up. 

Have realistic expectations

This goes hand-in-hand with expecting difficulties along the way, as mentioned earlier. Having realistic expectations means remaining optimistic of a total recovery but being aware of the possibilities of a negative outcome. 

According to people who shared personal experiences of helping loved ones deal with substance abuse, one thing stood out of the lot. They believe that holding the user accountable to mutually agreed expectations helps to set a moral standard. This is different from holding a drug user to a promise. Instead, what you do is set the stage for self-acceptance even when they relapse. Having realistic expectations requires acknowledging that the recovery journey could take detours before arriving at the final destination. This will help you have more patience and show understanding towards the one you’re helping.

Avoid enabling the habit of substance abuse.

Sometimes, while in the act of empathizing with the substance abuser, you may miss recognizing your actions that could be enabling them. There’ve been cases of family members not fully realizing that what they did or do that supports an addiction problem. For example, providing financial support to a person with substance addiction without knowing or having proof of what the money will be used for could indirectly encourage this behavior.

Another example is buying groceries for a user while saving them from being responsible for their actions. Any situation that prevents them from using up their own money for fruitful endeavors is an avenue to splurge on the substances they’re addicted to. This is where tough love is needed. It can be challenging to follow through with, but it’s what they need at this point in their lives.

How to Help a Person Struggling with Addiction

Finally, you as the helper must also take care of your overall well-being. Helping a person with an addiction can take a toll on your body and mental state. It can also affect your sleep pattern because you’re always worried about what else to do to support their road to recovery. As a solution, stick to an exercise regimen to help you relax. Read books on positivity, keep your body adequately hydrated and love yourself first.

The Mom Kind

Alicia Trautwein is an Autism advocate, writer, motivational speaker, and dedicated mom of four. Alicia’s desire to advocate for Autism comes from her own autism diagnosis and that of her three children, niece, and brother. Her life’s mission is to educate on autism acceptance and change the world for future generations of autistic individuals.

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