This post first appeared on The Dunes in East Hampton Rehab Centers’ Blog
No one imagines having to deal with a loved one who is struggling with addiction. But the reality is that millions of people suffer from the disease, and it can happen to anyone. Many of today’s drug addictions start at the home medicine cabinet, not on the streets. We are now seeing hardcore substances like heroin pop up in affluent suburbs and impacting families that would seem most out of reach from addiction. These stories remind us that addiction knows no boundaries.
1. Get Educated
Addiction is a disease. If you found out that your loved one had an illness, you would research it. Do the same for addiction. Read about the signs and symptoms of substance abuse, the reasons why it occurs and how to be an active support person.
2. Observe Their Behavior
Take a few days to observe the behavior of your loved one. It’s a good idea to have clear examples of the types of behavior that concern you. Share this information with other key family members and determine how to approach the situation.
3. Talk To A Professional
Speak with a substance abuse specialist, guidance counselor, mental health expert or other helpful professional. This person can guide you in the right direction. They may recommend staging an intervention. They can also help with developing a safety plan if you feel that your loved one could be a threat.
4. Line Up A Treatment Center
Depending on the situation, your loved one may need professional intervention to change their ways. Before staging an intervention, have a treatment center picked out. You don’t want any delays between the intervention and treatment, otherwise your loved one may try to manipulate you or change their mind. Give them an ultimatum: It’s treatment or being cut off from the family, for example. Make sure you are specific and clear with the ultimatum. I.e.: If they don’t accept treatment then they are going to be cut off financially, from seeing or spending time with family members or their children, no more “crashing” or housing at family members’ homes, etc.
5. Attend Family Support Groups
Just as your loved one will require therapy to understand their harmful behaviors and negative patterns of thinking, you need therapy to deal with your emotions. Addiction takes a toll on the family unit, so deal with your feelings head on. Find support groups in your area through Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.
6. Be Active In Their Recovery
Continue to be an active support person in your loved one’s recovery. You can support them without supporting their habit. Attend family therapy sessions, communicate with their doctors and counselors and support their aftercare plan when they return from treatment.
It’s important to remember that you cannot change your loved one’s behavior. The only behavior you can change is your own.
Learn more about what to do if your loved one is suffering from both a mental illness and addiction by reading this blog.
Please take the time and share this with anyone you know who has a loved one who is struggling with addiction. Now is the time – Please don’t wait.
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