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Helping a family member or other loved one recognize a substance abuse problem can be one of the biggest challenges you will ever face. Sometimes it is hard to know for sure whether a drug addiction exists, and in cases where you are sure drug addiction exists, you may not know how to approach the subject with the affected person. Here, then, are some ways you can face this challenge successfully.
Try not to overthink it. If problems exist with your loved one’s health, finances, work, relationships, social functioning, or legal standing, then you are not overreacting by believing that substance abuse could be behind the issues.
First, educate yourself on signs and symptoms of substance abuse. Observe your loved one’s behavior, and talk with other close family members and friends to determine their view of the situation. If you agree there is a problem, your next step is to help your family member recognize the substance abuse problem. The addict will not make a successful recovery unless and until he or she recognizes the drug addiction and wants help for it.
You Cannot Wait for the “Perfect Moment”
Obviously, some times are better than others for broaching the subject of drug addiction. Thanksgiving Dinner is probably a bad time to bring it up, for example. But if you wait for that “perfect” time to talk about substance abuse, you could wait forever.
Often, the best moment for bringing up the topic of drug addiction is when you have a degree of privacy, and few distractions. Perhaps you could have a one-to-one conversation while taking a walk, or over a cup of coffee in the kitchen. Approaching someone you love about substance abuse is never easy, but at some point, you simply have to trust yourself to do it.
Setting Boundaries Is Essential
Naturally, you want to be supportive of the person you love who is going through drug addiction. However, you have to set boundaries and stick to them. For example, you may agree not to bring up the addiction at inappropriate times, like at a family birthday celebration.
Emphasize the fact that you love the person with the addiction, but you love him or her enough that you will not enable destructive behavior. In order to maintain your own health, you have to establish some degree of detachment, which can be extraordinarily painful at times. By stating up front that you will not call in to work for the addict if he or she is incapacitated, for example, you set clear boundaries and minimize the chances of ending up in a destructive, co-dependent relationship.
Knowing When an Intervention Is Necessary
Interventions should be considered a last resort, after other supportive efforts have failed. Do not feel like you have failed, though. Recovery from drug addiction is hard, for both the addict and loved ones. Interventions are those difficult conversations that take place in a loving, safe environment, explaining the extent and severity of the person’s substance abuse.
Participating in an intervention may be one of the most emotionally challenging things you will ever do. It often becomes a defining moment in the life of the person with the addiction and in your own life as well.
If you believe that an intervention is needed, but are not sure what to do, you can speak with professional counselors beforehand. These professionals can help you create your strategy and advise you on what and what not to do. Some will sit in with you during the intervention.
Your Role During and After Treatment
Helping those with a substance abuse problem to recognize that they have a problem and need help is a big accomplishment, but your role does not end there. As this person goes through drug addiction treatment, he or she needs your support and encouragement. You do not have to (and should not) smother your addicted loved one with attention. But make it clear that you believe he or she made the right decision and that you will stand by your loved one as he or she works to overcome addiction.
The constructive, supportive involvement of loved ones can make the difference between recovering from addiction and remaining mired in it. Does someone you love show signs of drug addiction? If so, we invite you to learn more about admissions at any time.
Helping a Family Member Recognize a Substance Abuse Problem