Help! A Loved One Is Addicted, What Can I Do?
What can you do if a loved one is addicted? Many people believe that addiction only affects the person who is addicted, however this line of thinking is not even close to being accurate. Many who are addicted are not truly affected by it because they do not believe that they have a problem and the emotional pain and suffering is experienced by the addicts loved ones.
If a loved one is addicted, I aim to steer you in the right direction with this article in order for you to release your emotional pain and get them the help that they so desperately need.
If you are unsure of whether or not your loved one is addicted, then below you can find the signs and symptoms of both alcohol and drug abuse and make the determination of whether or not you want to move forward with your next steps.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse and addiction can be difficult to detect because it is socially acceptable to drink alcohol. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), in 2013 86% of people aged 18 and older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their life (NIAAA.NIH.Gov). Some signs of alcohol abuse include the following:
- Alcohol consumption interferes with work, school, or other activities due to being hung-over from drinking.
- Frequent memory losses or “blackouts” from drinking.
- Person drinks excessively even when they know they have to drive home.
Alcohol abuse progresses into an addiction when the following signs and symptoms are observed:
- Person cannot control how much they drink or when they drink.
- A lot of time is spent drinking or recovering from drinking.
- Person skips out on other activities they used to enjoy in order to drink.
- Frequently talks about “quitting” but never can bring themselves to quit.
- Person lies about their drinking; how much they have drank in order to downplay the severity.
- Frequent excuses for drinking such as “stress” or to help them solve problems.
- Alcohol becomes a must in their life, they cannot do anything without drinking.
Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse
Drug abuse is a bit easier to detect in some instances because since it is not socially acceptable, the person’s behavior is often a cue to keep a close eye on them. Some common signs are listed here:
- Mood swings – going from irritated and upset to suddenly happy and outgoing.
- Unusual behavior such as going to “meet a friend” late at night and then coming back quickly.
- Staying up all hours of the night when they need to work or go to school the next morning.
- Constant sniffy or runny nose with the excuse of “having allergies”.
- Withdrawal from positive influencers in their lives.
- Sudden change in behavior.
- Lying about stupid things that they don’t need to lie about.
- Red or glossy eyes, pinpoint pupils, or extremely large pupils.
- Lack of personal grooming anymore.
These in and of themselves don’t necessarily mean the person is abusing drugs, but if you have known them long enough then you will know that something is different about them.
How Can You Help?
If you are married to, living with, or care about someone that you suspect is abusing drugs or alcohol then there are some things you can do to try to get that person the help they need.
Step 1 – Remove your emotions from the equation.
It is hard to watch a loved one struggle with an addiction, but it becomes even harder if you cannot control your emotions. Getting angry or upset will not help the other person, but it will wreak havoc on your emotional well being.
Take 10 slow and controlled deep breaths, recognize that this isn’t your fault, and begin to craft a plan for trying to help.
Step 2 – Craft a plan for helping this person.
With your emotions out of the equation you can now begin to see clearly and craft a plan for helping this person. People tend to get very defensive when you “accuse” them of something they are not doing, so you need to have evidence. Begin to write down what it is that makes you believe the loved one is addicted.
With evidence in hand, you can start to think about the conversation you want to have with this person. The goal of your conversation should be to get through to them, the decision to get help has to come from within them and they have to believe that it was their decision and not anyone else’s.
You will want to have this conversation when they are sober and open to receiving your message. Make them feel loved inside and that people do actually care about them after all. A lot of times they believe nobody cares even though this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The last part of the plan is options for helping them. The more you can line up in advance, the easier it will be to get them to accept your offer. Call a few addiction rehab centers to find a great option for them if they decide to get help.
It is great to tell someone you think they have an addiction and need help, but without offering a solution you will be having these types of conversations a lot with them.
Step 3 – Have the conversation.
If you have a family counselor, then schedule some time with them to sit down and mediate the conversation. If you don’t have a counselor, you may want to consider finding one. They can help coach you through this talk and offer you solutions for dealing with the emotional pain that comes from watching a loved on struggle.
As mentioned above, you should hold this conversation when the person is sober and receptive to your message. Let them know that you do care about them and present the evidence that you gathered to them.
Do not accuse them, blame them for your problems, or beat them down any more than they already are. What happened in the past is the past, now is the time to look toward the future.
Finally, offer them treatment options that you have found as part of your own research and let them know that you are here to support them every step of the way.
Remember, you cannot force anyone to do anything that they don’t want to do, but if your loved one is addicted and you are looking for additional information about entering them into an addiction treatment program then reach out.