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Many people come to therapy because they don’t know how to help someone with a substance addiction. They ask questions like:
- “I think my partner is using again. They disappear for days at a time. I want to face them, but I don’t know how. What can I tell them?
- “My best friend started hanging out with people who use hard drugs. I suspect she uses too. Will giving him an ultimatum help him? »
- “My son’s behavior is becoming erratic. He’s always drunk when he comes home. Is it just a phase, or is it a sign that I need to step in and stop it? »
Watching a loved one suffer from substance addiction is never easy. Maybe you’ve seen them go through withdrawal or you’ve seen them lie about their use. You may worry about their health or the choices they make. It is a difficult road both for the person in difficulty and for those who care about them. But there is hope.
The first step is to understand that addiction is a disease. Like any other chronic disease, it requires professional medical treatment. You cannot “fix” someone who has an addiction; only they can do it themselves.
However, there are two things you can do to understand and support them in their fight for sobriety.
1. Learn the truths about substance addiction.
You can’t help someone through a struggle you don’t understand. There’s a lot of sensationalism and misinformation around addiction, so it’s important to get your information from trusted sources.
An article published in Addiction outlines 10 of the most important things we need to realize about substance addiction. They are:
- Compulsive behavior is at the heart of addiction.
- For most people with a substance abuse problem, the initiation of drug-seeking behavior is beyond their conscious control.
- It can run in the family.
- Most people who need help with addiction also need help with other mental health issues.
- Substance addiction is often a chronic condition and people are prone to relapses.
- A good relationship between the individual and the therapist is more important than the type of detox psychotherapy used, all of which have similar results.
- We don’t have to wait for the person concerned to be motivated to quit. Instead, quietly listening to their experiences while offering empathy and human connection is a great first step.
- Treatment plans must be tailored to an individual’s unique situation and must address the social issues they face.
- It is difficult to manufacture epiphanies.
- It is unwise to expect quick results because change takes time.
2. Be patient, present and loving.
Substance dependence is often characterized by isolation. Thus, it can be counterproductive to give the cold shoulder to a loved one who is using or going through a relapse.
A study published in Addictive behaviors found that substance dependent people had a more insecure attachment style than healthy people. This, along with the discovery that they are less likely to separate their feelings and thoughts, means they are very sensitive to what they perceive as ultimatums or avoidances.
One of the best ways to show someone you care is to be present in their life, but not confront them directly about using it.
Instead, you could show them that you care about their health, safety, and well-being. Here are some examples of what you might say:
- ” Did you sleep well ? You look like you need a rest. Can I do something to help you? »
- “Your fridge is empty. Are we going shopping today?”
- “Looks like you haven’t seen the sun in a while. Can we go to the park later?
This way you show them how much you love them and you also help them with the aspects of their life that they are neglecting because of their condition.
If you find that your own mental health is compromised by being there for a loved one who suffers from a substance addiction, do your best not to make them feel responsible. The last thing you want to do is make them feel like a burden to you. Instead, show compassion for yourself, confide in a friend you trust, or seek professional help.
If you have a loved one struggling with a substance addiction, know that you are not alone. Millions of people struggle with addiction, but help is available. Learn about addiction and offer support without turning them on. It’s not always easy, so be prepared to ask for help if you need it. With understanding and support, healing is possible.
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