If there is one thing that is more challenging than having the disease of addiction, it is watching a family member struggle with it. Whether it is your spouse, your child, a sibling or a parent who is an addict, the situation can make you feel utterly lost and helpless. There may be times when you feel as if there is nothing you can do to help. Here are some concrete and useful ways in which you can lend your support to your addicted loved one:
- Get Educated — The first and most important thing you can do to help your loved one is to learn about the disease of addiction. Drugs and alcohol “hijack” the brain of the addict. The surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine — the “reward” triggered by chemical use — takes on the very aspect of a survival need.
- Stop Enabling — Many loved ones of addicts enable the disease without even realizing it. Do you provide your loved one with money? Do you give him a place to crash after going on a bender? Do you make excuses for him and tackle his responsibilities when he fails to meet them? If so, you could be enabling his habit. Cut the strings and force him to see the consequences of his addiction. It may seem mean, but sometimes tough love is necessary.
- Consider an Intervention — Interventions are not for everyone, but when done in a professional and caring manner, they can be a great way to get an addict to realize he needs help. To make an intervention successful, make sure you get family and friends to help, plan it in advance, include consequences for the addict and be prepared with choices and options for rehab. You can even have a professional help coordinate and lead the intervention if you are worried about what might happen.
- Collect Resources — Whether or not you choose to hold an intervention to help your loved one, do be prepared with resources for getting professional help. As soon as the addict is willing and ready to engage in treatment, you should have his options on hand. Do research to find the facilities that can help him and that he can afford to attend.
- Attend Support Groups — You cannot help your loved one if you are struggling too. Support groups for the family members of addicts can be a great way to stay well and to get support for yourself. The addict is not the only one going through a difficult time. Get help for yourself, your family and the addict.
- Maintain Normality — Your life is likely anything but normal when you are coping with an addict in the family. However, for the sanity of everyone involved, strive to stick to a normal schedule and normal activities. Make sure the kids get to school on time and that they are able to attend all of their activities and social events. Try to have dinner together every night. Attend family events and engage in activities you normally would. Having that sense of normalcy goes a long way toward making everyone feel more comfortable as you cope with addiction.
Helping a loved one struggle through addiction and into recovery is no easy task. It takes its toll on everyone in the family. Keep yourself well, keep your family together, learn to understand the disease and get your loved one professional help. If you do all of these things, you should be able to ride this wave and see the light at the end of the tunnel.