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How to Help a Drug Addict

helping-a-loved-one-with-addictionAddiction affects millions of people nationwide, so if you’re watching a loved one struggle with substance abuse, you certainly aren’t alone. We know this fact obviously doesn’t make it any easier to watch the people you care about harm themselves, their families or their friends. However, blaming yourself for a loved one’s addiction, attempting to cure it or trying to control the situation is only going to make you feel worse.

In this article we’ll explore a concept called “The 3 Cs” of drug or alcohol addiction recovery. Our hope is that you’ll come away with a much clearer understanding of how you can help an addict recover from the disease of drug addiction.

1. You didn’t cause the addiction

Of course, it’s always easier to blame yourself. “What did I do wrong?” “How could I have prevented this?” But, fixating on what you did wrong is never the answer. This thought process places the focus of the addiction on yourself rather than on helping your loved one recover.

If you can truly accept that you are not the cause of the addiction, you’ll not only relieve an incredible amount of stress, you’ll also be able think about the situation with far greater clarity.

Educate yourself on addiction treatment programs

Finding and seeking help from a professional rehabilitation center is a critical first step in the ongoing recovery process. It can also be a difficult step – both for you and your loved one.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all addiction treatment program. So, when considering addiction treatment programs, look for options that will help the person you care about feel comfortable and supported throughout the recovery process.

Remember that addiction affects the whole person. Holistic programs that address an individual’s physical, mental and spiritual health may increase the odds of your loved one developing positive coping mechanisms for managing the addiction well into the future.

While the decision ultimately isn’t up to you, your knowledge of the available addiction treatment options could provide a great starting point when your loved one is ready to take action.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself

Naturally, seeking care for your loved one is your top priority. But you also need to seek care for yourself. Whether you’re struggling with guilt, anxiety, anger, frustration or any combination of difficult emotions, professional guidance can help you cope. It can also teach you how to offer support to your loved one during and after the treatment program. After all, studies show that recovering addicts who have strong support systems are more likely to maintain sobriety after their program has ended.

2. You can’t cure the addiction

Before going any further, it’s important to define the word “cure” in terms of a drug or alcohol addiction. “Cure” is used to describe a state during which those affected by a chemical dependency are able to consistently manage their symptoms. “Cure” does not mean the person ceases to be an addict.

This is why you should never hold yourself accountable for completely ridding a loved one of his or her addiction. As harsh as it may sound, it’s an impossible expectation to meet and can lead to unnecessary frustration or anger. In turn, this makes it more difficult to provide the support your friend or family member needs during and after treatment.

Your loved one needs you during and after treatment for addiction

During treatment: Addicts who choose to enter rehab face physical and emotional challenges early on. They could be struggling with anger, guilt or the shame of hitting “rock bottom.” They may be struggling with the fear of being unable to abuse drugs or alcohol on a regular basis. They might be afraid to put their lives on hold to get better.

Furthermore, because drugs and alcohol affect the way the brain works, removing the addictive substance from the body may lead to significant mood swings, anxiety, irritability, tremors, nausea, depression and more. While many treatment programs offer therapy, medical services and nutritional support, simply being there to support your loved one can do wonders.

After treatment: For all of the anxiety your loved one may have felt before entering rehab, the fear of leaving treatment could be even more overwhelming. When in rehab, clients soon learn that they are protected from temptation. They know they can get support from staff or other clients at any time and that they are surrounded by positive, supportive people who understand what they’re going through.

Outside of this protective environment, your loved one may be exposed to stressors that could lead to relapse:

  • Anxiety about re-joining the workforce
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Fear of judgement by other friends or family members

Remember that you can play a key role in helping your loved one responsibly cope with difficult emotions in the absence of drugs or alcohol.

3. You can’t control the addiction

Many addicts convince themselves they have control over their substance abuse. But in reality, as long as your loved one continues to abuse alcohol or other drugs, the substance itself holds all of the power.

While this may be blatantly obvious to you, don’t allow yourself to assume responsibility for the addiction on behalf of your loved one. If you do, you may find yourself beginning to make decisions that aren’t yours to make. In return, your loved may come to resent your good intentions, which can actually feed the addiction.

Resources for family members of addicts

The good news is that there are many resources to help you not only cope with the stress of a loved one’s addiction, but to find new ways to guide them toward recovery. As a starting point, we’ve compiled a list of reputable online resources for you to explore.

  • Al-Anon Family Groups: For families of alcoholics.
  • Nar-Anon: For families of narcotics addicts.
  • Codependents Anonymous: For loved ones who inadvertently enable the addict’s addiction.
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics: For adults dealing with the drug or alcohol addiction of a parent.
  • Learn to Cope: An online support network for moral and emotional encouragement.
  • Parents of Addicted Loved Ones: Local and online support for parents hoping to save a son or daughter.

Just remember that the victim is the one must decide to take action. The best way for you to help is to offer your support and encouragement without overstepping your boundaries.

The Raleigh House is here to help

If someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, our residential addiction treatment program has helped hundreds of people get healthy again. If you’d like information about the cost of treatment at The Raleigh House, or if you’d like to speak with one of our addiction recovery experts, call us today. When your loved one is ready, so are we.


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