How To Help Someone You Care About
As anyone whose life has been impacted by an addiction or behavior compulsion can attest, the effects of these diseases are rarely (if ever) limited to just one person.
When an individual is struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction or a compulsive behavior, he or she isn’t the only one whose life is changed. Parents, children, spouses, siblings, friends and co-workers can all be negatively impacted by these diseases and disorders.
The strongest “secondary” impact of addiction is usually felt by immediate family members. In the case of teen addictions, parents and siblings are most likely to feel the effects. When adults develop and addictions or compulsions, the greatest burden is likely to be placed upon spouses, partners and children.
So, how can these loved ones help when someone they care about is struggling with addiction or a related mental health issue?
Here are four tips:
1. Educate yourself
Learn everything you can about the disease of addiction. This will help you understand what your loved one is going through, why treatment is needed and what types of treatment are most likely to work — and it may increase your feelings of compassion.
You will need the help and support of others in the family as well, so it’s important that you offer informed opinions about what can and should be done to create real and lasting change.
It’s a myth that addicts and alcoholics can only benefit from treatment after they’ve hit “rock bottom” and realized that they need help. Many alcoholics and addicts enter into substance abuse treatment programs initially on the urging of concerned friends or family members, at the request of employers or as mandated by the courts. In fact, research has documented that people who enter treatment because they have been convinced (or ordered) to are just as likely to succeed as anyone else.
Talk to the person you love about drug rehab treatment. Sometimes you can convince them to get the help they need — sometimes they’re just waiting for someone to ask.
3. Provide Support During & After Treatment
Take an active role in the treatment process. And remember that recovery is a long-term process that continues long after the initial treatment phase has ended.
Family counseling and family education sessions can help reveal family dynamics that may contribute to the substance abuse — and may help mend some of the wounds inevitably caused by addiction.
4. Get Help for Yourself
You can’t help someone you love if you burn out. And ultimately, you can’t live anyone else’s life for them. It is vital that you look after yourself. Helping someone you love battle addiction isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, and you offer the most help if you are there for the long haul.
Many people find that support groups like Alanon or Alateen help them deal with the often painful realities of loving an addict or alcoholic. Others prefer individual counseling or other forms of support.
Just remember that you need to care for yourself if you want to be in the best possible position to care for your loved ones, too.