What to Do When Your Loved One is Struggling With Alcohol & Drug Abuse

drug and alcohol abuse

Alcohol and drug abuse are much more common than you may initially think. People drink socially, they take drugs recreationally, and as these substances are addictive, it is relatively easy to become dependent on them over time. Many people who use addictive substances to get through the day refuse to admit they have an addiction issue. Very often, they don’t even realize there is a problem.

Some individuals with addiction may offer excuses for taking a particular substance. For example, they may say: “It helps me to relax” or “it’s just a bit of fun”, etc. However, when the habit becomes very regular and the drug is the first thing they reach for in the morning, it is indicative of a very serious and potentially fatal problem.

Feeding a drug habit may also be very expensive. As individuals travel down the path of addiction they may require more of the substance to obtain the original high they had when they first took the drug. Some people even turn to crime to feed escalating cravings. They may become involved in illicit activities such as burglaries, prostitution, and even murder.

Alcohol and drug abuse can also wreak havoc on family life. It is not unusual for people with addiction issues to experience mood swings, become withdrawn, lose their job, or start associating with potentially dangerous people. Some family members and friends describe their loved one as a ‘different person’. Drug and alcohol abuse may contribute to decreased workplace productivity, increased arguments, and money problems. Children who witness the addictive behavior of a family member may feel confused, bewildered and embarrassed. If the addict is a parent, children may be compelled to assume adult responsibilities much earlier than they should. Thankfully, there are programs like Project Unbroken that help individuals and family members who are trying to overcome addiction. You can read more about Project Unbroken by clicking here.

If someone you love is able to admit he has a substance dependence issue, it is often much easier to help him. So the first step is to help your family member or friend to recognize that there is a problem. You may need to call other friends or family members for help. Even if your loved one admits there is a problem, however, it is possible that he may not want to do anything about it. Nevertheless, there are key steps you can take to help him get back on track:

Build Trust

The key is to be patient, supportive, kind and compassionate. This will help you to build trust. Nagging and lecturing are unlikely to help as it will just push your loved one further away. Instead, allow him to feel in control and stay by his side to provide any needed support and guidance.

Help Yourself

In order to help someone else, you need to be strong yourself. It is not unusual for caregivers to experience declining physical and mental health as they provide support for a loved one with an addiction. There are organizations and self-help groups where you can meet people in similar circumstances and share advice. Therapists and other mental health professionals may also provide the guidance you need to stay strong.

Avoid Addictive Behaviors

It is definitely not helpful to your loved one if you drink excessive amounts of alcohol to cope with stress. People with addiction may feel intense guilt if they believe they contributed to addictive behavior in their other family members or friends. Your decision to drink may also fuel your loved one’s addictive behavior and make it harder to resist the urge to drink or take drugs. Although the situation may be very stressful, it is best to keep yourself under control when it comes to your own substance use.

Treatment

If your loved one agrees to see a mental health professional or check into rehab, remember that it is the start of a long journey which will have several ups and downs. Many people who enter rehab have occasional angry outbursts, intense cravings, and eventually relapse. In some extreme cases, individuals have attempted suicide. It is important to stick with treatment, especially when you experience challenges. Here are a few reminders to maximize the time your loved one spends in professional care:

  • Always remember there will be physical symptoms of withdrawal which are very unpleasant and need to be properly managed. Medication or drug substitutes may be provided to ease the transition.
  • Counseling may be required to help manage emotions and examine the reasons for the problem in the first place. New behaviors may need to be learned and old ones discarded.
  • You may need to encourage attendance at weekly meetups and you may need to help your loved one engage in healthy social activities.
  • You may be the only breadwinner in the house but you may still be required to come home and adopt the role of a caregiver. You may also need to help with simple tasks until your loved one feels able or confident to resume his or her normal routine.
  • You may need to become a ‘sounding block’ for the person with the addiction. If you are, it is important to listen, avoid judgment and allow your loved one to feel in control.
  • Your loved one will need to build his confidence and self-esteem again. That is going to take time, patience and a lot of understanding.
  • You may need to remind your loved one of appointments and when it is time to take his medication, without seeming pushy.
  • You need to be supportive when challenges pop up.

Image courtesy of Jessica Camperchioli

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