How to Support Your Family Through Addiction
More than 21 million Americans suffer from addiction. Admitting there’s a problem and getting help are the first steps to recovery. While the treatment itself is best left to the professionals, those who are seeking help can benefit greatly from having a supportive network of friends and family.
Let’s look at some ways you can support your family through addiction.
How to Support Your Family Through Addiction
Providing family support for addiction can mean the difference between staying clean and relapsing. Here are some effective ways to provide support.
Know the Signs
Before having any discussions about addiction or getting help, it’s important to understand the signs.
Addiction can permeate into all areas of a person’s life, but it’s not always easy for family members to recognize the signs.
The signs and symptoms of addiction will depend on a few factors:
- The substance being abused
- Whether the person is mixing alcohol and other drugs
- Whether there are pre-existing conditions that may affect the person’s behavior
- How often the person is using or abusing the substance
That being said, there are behavioral signs that many addicts exhibit, such as:
- Isolating themselves
- Being secretive
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Having financial problems
- Taking risks
- Having strained relationships
If your family member has become more withdrawn, is failing to show up at work and is generally acting out of the ordinary, these may be indications that they are suffering from addiction.
Knowing the signs and understanding addiction can help you provide better support to your family member as they work towards recovery.
Addiction affects everyone in the family because the disease affects every aspect of the person’s life. As a family member, you may experience a whirlwind of emotions, including:
When interacting with a family member who is suffering from addiction, it’s important to put these feelings aside and adopt empathy. It’s important to work through the emotions you are experiencing, but your family member is likely already ashamed and embarrassed.
Remember that addiction can happen to anyone. It is not a sign of weakness or a lack of intelligence. Anyone can become addicted to a substance, and those who are afflicted do not want to be dependent on substances.
Those who suffer from addiction are often afraid to admit there’s a problem and frightened of what will happen if they seek help. They worry that:
- Their family will abandon them
- They will lose their job and their only source of income
- They will never get their life back
Remember that your loved one is suffering and does not want to be in their situation. Adopting empathy and approaching the subject of getting help from a place of love will make all the difference to your family member.
Consider Professional Alcohol Intervention
It’s difficult for anyone to admit they have a problem, especially with addiction, due to the stigma surrounding it. For this reason, interventions must be done delicately.
Some families are apprehensive about bringing in a professional because addiction is such a personal matter. Some addicts may feel bombarded and that their family has violated their trust.
However, a professional will have experience, expertise and advice that will be invaluable to you and your family. A professional can help your family construct a solid intervention plan.
When creating your plan, consider who will be involved. Depending on the individual and circumstances, it may be best to limit the number of people participating in the intervention.
Remember that your goal is to be supportive of your family member. This means:
- Being gentle but firm. Be compassionate, but ensure that your loved one understands that they need to get help.
- Giving your loved one options. Come prepared with a list of treatment centers where they can get the help they need.
- Being prepared. Come with examples and information that support your argument on why they should seek help.
Work with your interventionist and follow their advice on how to broach the subject and carry out the intervention.
Be There to Lend a Shoulder and Ear
Being supportive means being there for your family member through the ups and downs of addiction.
- Be a shoulder to cry on when they feel overwhelmed
- Be there to listen when they need someone to talk to
- Be empathetic and compassionate
Just knowing that they have someone who will be there when they need them can help them stay on the path to recovery.
Don’t Neglect Your Own Health
When a loved one has an addiction, it affects everyone in the family and can take an emotional toll on everyone. If you want to be at your best and provide support for your loved one, you must take care of yourself.
It’s easy to neglect your own physical and mental health when you are trying to save a family member’s life, but you are no help to your loved one if you are not healthy.
Practice self-care by:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Staying active
- Staying hydrated
- Participating in hobbies and activities that bring you joy
- Getting enough sleep
- Talking about your emotions either in therapy or with family and friends (or both)
- Setting appropriate boundaries
It is nearly impossible to support a family member through addiction if you are not healthy yourself, so make sure that self-care is a priority.
Continue Providing Support After Treatment
Your support shouldn’t end after treatment. Addiction is a lifelong battle, and your family member will need ongoing support and encouragement from their loved ones.
Many treatment centers offer family services. Take advantage of them to learn how to continue supporting your loved ones and share your experiences with others.
What Is the Relapse Rate for Addiction?
It’s estimated that 40-60% of people with addictions will relapse. Be prepared for this potential outcome when your family member completes treatment. Providing continued support and helping them get back on track can help them stay sober over the long term.
Supporting a family member through addiction is no easy task, but it’s worth the effort to help your loved one find their way back to sobriety and a healthier, happier life.