It can be heart-wrenching to witness a loved one’s descent into addiction or alcoholism. Feeling powerless to create lasting change is often the hardest part as we watch a friend, parent, child or sibling risk early death to keep on getting drunk or high. It’s unbelievable, but it’s reality.
Fortunately, although you may feel powerless, you have more influence than you realize. Here are six ways that you can help get a loved one to stop abusing drugs or alcohol.
Until you get educated about the problem, you can’t hope to provide workable solutions.
The situation may seem black and white to you – “just stop using what’s killing you” – but with addiction, what seems to make the most sense isn’t necessarily what’s true or needed. Addiction creates physiological changes in the brain that make it very difficult to just “say no.”
Addiction erodes impulse control. Without treatment and relapse avoidance techniques, constant cravings are difficult to overcome.
Read all you can about the disease of addiction. It will help you to 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 are going to 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.
Go to the library and read online. You should also plan to meet with an addiction specialist to get opinions and recommendations for treatment.
Addiction affects the family, and family affects the addiction. If at all possible, family members should participate in the addiction treatment process. 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.
Getting educated as a family also prepares the group to offer the kinds of relapse prevention support that can really make a difference in those first tough months of sobriety.