If you’re worried about a loved one struggling with a dependency on drugs or alcohol, you’re not alone. Though you may be confused and afraid, there are concrete ways that you can help.
In this guide we’ll outline the role of family in recovery from substance use disorder and offer some action items to help improve your loved one’s chance of success in recovery.
How can I help my family member recover from substance use disorder?
Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other relatives can play a critical role in helping a loved one find freedom from addiction.
As a family member to someone in recovery from substance use disorder, you might feel complicated emotions. Your loved one may have acted out of character in ways that hurt or scared you while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It’s important to take care of yourself during this time as well, including seeking professional help through therapy if necessary.
If you want to support your family member in their journey to recovery, your role is the same as it would be in the midst of any other struggle. Listen to your loved one, let them know you’re there to help and avoid judgment or criticism.
Does family support for addiction recovery actually make a difference?
You can have a real impact in helping your family member overcome drug abuse. A 2008 study found that family support as a component of intervention contributes to a higher rate of success in recovery from substance use. Even if you are not a parent, the family member’s role in helping to prevent and mitigate addiction is key.
Moreover, the National Institute on Drug Abuse lists several essential protective factors in the prevention of addiction. Among these factors are strong and positive family bonds, parental involvement, clear expectations and consistent consequences.
How do I know if my loved one is struggling with substance use?
One of the first ways you can intervene to encourage sobriety is by learning the signs of addiction. Once you’re familiar with tell-tale symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse, you’ll be equipped to have a conversation about making a change.
Look for these behaviors in your loved one.
- Difficulty functioning in work, school or social relationships
- Feeling an uncontrollable urge to use drugs
- Constantly thinking about using substances
- Missing commitments to drink or use drugs
- Acting secretively
- Avoiding talking about substance use
- Dismissing addictive behaviors
- Needing to lie or steal to obtain substances
- Having physical complaints (hangovers, stomachaches, headaches, etc.)
- Needing to use a substance to feel normal
These and other symptoms of addiction can clue you in and help you to know when it’s time to say something.
How can I take action?
If your loved one has substance use disorder, there are some actionable steps you can take to turn the tide. Here’s what to do.
Open the conversation
Simply voicing what behaviors you’ve noticed can go a long way. It often takes another person’s perspective to awaken someone to the reality of his or her addiction. Share specific changes you’ve recognized. Note that your family member may become defensive, so tread carefully in these conversations.
Encourage professional treatment
Talking about addiction is not a light topic and not a conversation either of you are likely to be comfortable having. That’s why professional treatment is so important. An experienced professional can guide your loved one as he processes his past and works toward a sober future.
The road to recovery is laden with challenges of every sort. Whether it’s job loss, homelessness, relapse, damaged relationships or emotional difficulties, treatment is bound to have times that are truly hard. However, unconditional love and support from family can help soften the blow. Take the setbacks in stride and continue on. The end goal is worth the effort.
Understand the brain changes of recovery
Recovery is often fraught with barriers due to the nature of addiction. Addiction is a disease that affects the chemicals in a person’s brain. Reversing the process of substance dependency is an arduous task that can take months or even years. This is why many people in recovery consider it to be a life-long journey of healing and growth.
What is enabling and how do I avoid it?
When you’re aiding a family member who is overcoming addiction, you’re likely to hear the term “enabling” thrown around. Enabling refers to the intentional or unintentional actions that we perform that minimize the natural consequences of another’s behavior. In an effort to protect and care for our loved ones, we may actually be prolonging an addiction.
For example, if Bob’s sister Anna is unable to pay for groceries because she uses her money on drugs, by offering to pay for her groceries month after month, he might believe he is helping while actually doing her a disservice. Because of Bob’s actions, Anna never experiences the true weight of the financial harm that is caused by her drug use.
Avoiding enabling requires careful consideration and self-restraint. It’s natural and normal to take care of our loved ones, but avoiding enabling requires us to sacrifice their temporary good for their permanent good.
If you have a family member or loved one who needs help breaking the grip of addiction, reach out to High Focus Centers. Take advantage of a variety of programs to meet your recovery needs and access family support for addiction recovery today. Call us at 800-877-3628.