Millions of people across the world struggle with addiction. Some people have a gambling problem whilst others have a dependence on drugs, alcohol, and smoking. The impact of addiction on an individual and their loved ones is devastating. It can put a strain on relationships, result in financial problems, cause health complications, and – in the worst cases – eventually lead to the user’s death.
Helping Both the Addict and Their Loved One
If you suspect a loved one has an addiction problem, then you are probably wondering what to do next. This situation is notoriously difficult to navigate as addicts are usually in denial about their problem (which means they refuse to acknowledge or aren’t even aware of the issue). They are also very good at hiding their addiction from the rest of the world.
As such, today we are going to be providing some guidance for people who suspect their loved one has an addiction. We want to support both the addict and their families, so we will be discussing how to navigate this situation both logically and emotionally. Addiction is an invisible illness that affects everyone it touches.
1) Learning the Signs and Symptoms
To officially determine whether your loved one is suffering from an addiction, it’s important to learn the different signs and symptoms. This will help to solidify your suspicions. It might bring you some emotional clarity on the issue, too. Here are the main signs and symptoms of addiction that you should be on the lookout for:
- Inability to stop
- Continues behavior/usage despite health problems
- Underlying emotional problems
- Risk-taking behavior
- Obsession with the addictive substance
- Denial of problem
- Secretive, solitary behavior
- Maintaining a constant supply of substance
- Dropping old hobbies that they used to enjoy
- Excessive consumption
- Having secret stashes
- Financial or legal issues
- Change in appetite
- Withdrawal symptoms like sickness or fatigue
- Restlessness or insomnia
- Change in appearance
- Damage or disease i.e. liver problems from alcohol abuse
- Increasing tolerance to the addictive substance
2) Understanding their Addiction
If you want to effectively help your loved one, then it’s important to understand their addiction and what exactly has led to the person to develop a problem. The better you understand the addict, the more equipped you are to handle the situation.
Let’s begin by discussing addiction from a scientific perspective. Addiction is actually classified as a brain disorder. Overexposure to addictive substances and behaviors can change our body’s chemistry, so we begin to physically crave the rewarding stimuli they bring. That’s why addicts suffer from withdrawal symptoms when they stop. This doesn’t mean they don’t have control over their actions, though. Addiction can be overcome.
Now, let’s talk about what causes addiction. As we mentioned before, overexposure to addictive behaviors and substances will eventually lead us to develop an unhealthy reliance. However, some people also have a genetic predisposition to addiction. Furthermore, psychological issues usually underpin an addiction. For instance, if somebody has unresolved trauma, they will try to numb their thoughts and feelings with substance abuse.
3.) Initiate a Dialogue with Them
This can be the hardest step for a lot of people. Regardless, it’s incredibly important that you do, because from here you can help your loved one to recover. Most people find that addicts pathologically resist help. They will deny they have a problem, becoming frustrated, secretive and solitary. So, let’s discuss how to successfully initiate one of these discussions about addiction.
For starters, you must be compassionate. Being too hard on your loved one could cause them to feel misunderstood and more alone than before, driving them further into the arms of their addiction. As such, compassion is key during these discussions. This includes expressing your care and concern, validating their emotions, active listening and working on your understanding. Most importantly, avoid making them feel guilty or ashamed because this tactic will actually derail their recovery and negatively affect your relationship.
Next, you need to find a balance between being compassionate and enabling your loved one’s addiction. Though it’s often tempting to bail the person out, this means they never feel the consequences for their actions. For example, if they lose a fortune when gambling, you shouldn’t sublimate this amount. Otherwise, they will continue the problem behavior as you have shielded them from reality. So, don’t enable their addiction. Only provide them with emotional support.
To aid your loved one’s recovery, you should encourage them to undertake healthy habits. These are essential when it comes to managing their mental wellbeing. Some healthy habits include maintaining good personal hygiene, exercising, eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep and seeking out professional support like addiction therapy. Mental and physical health are intertwined – together, they are essential in facilitating recovery.
4) Staging an Intervention
Now you’ve had an open discussion about addiction, it’s time to suggest they seek out drug and alcohol treatment or a therapist for their problem gambling and smoking. Be careful and compassionate when staging an intervention. Like we said before, addicts will resist and deny relentlessly. They will only properly begin recovery once they’ve admitted there is a problem and actually want to get better. This is perhaps the hardest thing about addiction.
Though you could admit them involuntarily, this is counterproductive and ineffective. It will also damage your relationship with your loved one. Instead, encourage the addict to make this decision for themselves. This is known to increase the success rate of treatment, plus reduce the likelihood of relapse occurring. Practice all the techniques we mentioned before (with a particular focus on compassion, acceptance and patience) and hopefully things should work out in rehab.
There is no denying that the road to recovery is long and difficult. Though it might feel impossible, it isn’t. You and your loved one will feel happy and healthy again. We recommend contacting a support group for emotional help during this time.