HopeXchange is proud to welcome guest blogger Bethany Hatton. Bethany, a retired librarian with 32 years of experience, created PreventAddiction.info after her oldest grandson became addicted to opioids. Though she discovered there is no guaranteed way to prevent addiction; she was able to find many helpful resources that can keep the public up to date on the latest prevention, addiction, and recovery information.
Millions of Americans suffer with addiction to substances, and unfortunately, it can be an extremely difficult behavior to break free of. Some individuals rely on substances to help them get through tough emotional times, while others have undiagnosed mental health disorders that can seem minimized by drug abuse, although in reality, substances only make things worse.
It can be disheartening and even scary to watch someone you care about descend into substance abuse, in part because it’s so hard to know how to help without pushing them away. However, it’s imperative to reach out if you believe a loved one is engaging in harmful abuse of a substance. ADrugRehab.org points out, “Addiction is tricky and calculating, and it’s the only disease that can take more than one person down with it, if it is left unchallenged. Addiction dramatically alters the lives of not just the addicted person, but of everyone within his or her vicinity, namely family and friends.”
Here are a few of the best tips on how to help someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Do some research
It’s important to educate yourself on the symptoms, causes, and warning signs of substance abuse before anything else. Knowing these things will help you keep an open mind when it comes to helping your loved one. It’s okay if you don’t understand everything right away; addiction is a very complex disorder that has many different causes, and no one treatment is right for everyone. For reference, some of the warning signs of substance abuse include:
- Refraining from engaging in social activities
- A decline in personal hygiene
- Mood swings
- Sudden decline in performance at school or work
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
These symptoms can also be indicative of a mental health disorder, however, so look for telltale signs that your loved one is engaging in unhealthy activities, such as a powerful scent of alcohol around them, dilated pupils, confusion, or cognitive issues.
Give them love and support
Every individual who is battling addiction is different; some people don’t even realize it’s become a problem until a loved one speaks up. Some suffer from depression and feel they are alone. Others feel guilty or sad about a past occurrence and use substances to numb the pain. Let your loved one know that you are here for them and that you love them, and the earlier the better. Don’t wait until they’ve had legal trouble or have lost a job to show your support.
Hold back the guilt
Many people who are battling addiction know that what they’re doing is harmful to their own health and to their families, but can’t physically break the addiction. They may already be feeling guilty, so it’s a good idea to refrain from bringing up topics that will add to it. Instead, be supportive and use phrases like, “I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you.” Not using words of blame and focusing instead on how they must be feeling will show them that you’re genuinely concerned and want to help.
Many people who are engaged in substance abuse become defensive when confronted about it; others are simply in denial. Be prepared for either reaction, and encourage your loved one to seek help. Let them know that they can move at their own pace and that you will be by their side to help them through even the hardest times. Assist your loved one in looking for a counselor or therapist, or in finding an online therapy group if they are unsure about how to get started.