Being forced to see a loved one struggle with a substance use disorder may be incredibly upsetting and have a negative impact on your own mental and emotional health. It is simple for the drug user to take control of their life, whether they are a close friend, spouse, parent, kid, or another family member. It can cause you to feel overwhelmed with stress, try your patience, put a burden on your finances, and fill you with negative emotions like guilt, shame, fear, anger, and sadness.
You can be concerned about your loved one’s whereabouts, their potential for overdosing, or the harm they’re causing to their health, future, and home life. You might owe money to them because you had to finance their living expenses, the cost of legal issues brought on by their drug use, or the cost of their failed attempts at rehab and recovery. You can also feel exhausted from taking care of your loved one’s needs at home or work, carrying their burdens, or being unable to spend more time with your other loved ones, friends, and interests.
Despite how hopeless you may feel, you are not fighting alone. Nearly half of Americans, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey, have a relative or close friend who has struggled with drug addiction. The abuse of tranquilizers and painkillers obtained with a prescription has increased dramatically throughout the Western world in recent years, posing a serious threat to public health. They are currently among the most often misused substances (together with marijuana).
Drug misuse and addiction can affect people from all areas of life, whether the issue is with prescription medicines or illicit substances. These problems can ruin families, rip apart relationships, and end lives. However, assistance is accessible. Even while you can’t make someone stop abusing drugs or alcohol, your love, support, and tolerance can be extremely helpful in their rehabilitation. With the help of these rules, you can discover how to assist your loved one in their endeavors, establish the necessary boundaries to protect your own health and welfare, and achieve some stability for both of you.
Recognizing Your Loved one’s Drug Use
There are numerous causes for why people begin using drugs. Many people use drugs or alcohol to ease the emotional suffering brought on by mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Some persons who self-medicate may be aware they have a mental health problem but are unable to discover healthy coping mechanisms, while others go untreated and turn to medicines to treat particular symptoms.
Others use drugs to alter their emotions, to blend in, or to get rid of boredom or life unhappiness. Then there are those for whom a doctor’s well-intended attempts to address a medical issue result in substance dependence. Estimates show that more than a quarter of patients who get opioids for pain relief will misuse the medication.
However, your loved one began using drugs, and not everyone who takes them goes on to have a problem. Although the precise causes of addiction are unclear, environmental and genetic factors are thought to be involved. While some people can use drugs without experiencing any negative consequences, others find that even occasional usage swiftly develops into compulsion and addiction—a very dark pit from which they may feel helpless to escape.
It might be challenging to tell if a loved one is abusing drugs. Drug misuse in youths, for instance, frequently resembles typical adolescent moodiness. Furthermore, there is no set quantity or frequency of usage that denotes that a person’s drug use has escalated to the point of concern. Whether your loved one uses drugs occasionally or regularly, the negative effects their drug misuse has on their lives are what point to a problem.
These are some indications that a loved one may have a substance use disorder:
Encountering difficulties in job, school, or home. For instance, they appear high more frequently and take more time off from work or school to make up for it. They perform poorly at jobs or school, disregard their home obligations, and have increasing amounts of relationship trouble. Even worse, they might quit their work, stop going to school or break up with a long-term spouse.
Changes in sleep patterns, a tendency to look tired or run-down, significant weight loss or increase, watery or bloodshot eyes, and forgetfulness or other cognitive disorders are examples of new health issues. Depending on the substance they’re using, they can also show signs like shaking, frequent nosebleeds, or frequent sniffing.
Changes in their conduct and emotions. Your loved one can be more evasive and tell lies about their activities, whereabouts, or drug use. If you try to talk to them about their drug usage, they could get angry easily or strike out. Heavy drug users frequently lose interest in previous interests, lack energy, and exhibit increased moodiness, reticence, and sadness. Even worse, they might disregard their appearance and personal hygiene and experience withdrawal symptoms if their preferred substance is taken away.
Persistent financial issues. Your loved one might borrow money without a good cause, apply for loans to fund their drug addiction, or pile up credit card debt. Even worse, they might take money or possessions to exchange for narcotics.
Drug-related Accessories to Watch Out For
You might also be able to tell if a loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol by the appearance of new or more drug-related items.
- Drugs are kept in paper wrappers, tiny bits of cling film, and tiny plastic bags.
- Smoking drugs frequently involves using rolling papers, pipes, bongs, or perforated plastic bottles or cans.
- Burnt spoons, foil, and syringes could be signs of heroin use.
- Prescriptions for those who abuse prescription drugs might be renewed more frequently, or bottles of medication might be prescribed for someone else.
How to Approach Someone About Doing Drugs
It’s never simple to start a talk about drug addiction with someone, but it’s crucial that you do so from a place of empathy and understanding. Keep in mind that nobody intentionally becomes an addict. Abusing drugs is frequently an ineffective attempt to deal with difficult situations or mental health challenges. Criticizing, belittling, or shaming them will only make your loved one withdraw and might even inspire them to turn to substance misuse for more solace, as stress has a tendency to fuel addictive behavior.
It can be shocking, frightening, and upsetting to learn that someone you care about has a drug addiction, especially if they are your child or adolescent. These intense feelings can make conversing with a drug user much more difficult. Therefore, it’s crucial to pick a time when you are both serene, sober, and without interruptions so that you can chat. Provide assistance and support without passing judgment.
Do not wait. You don’t need to wait for your loved one to reach their lowest point—to be in trouble with the law, lose their job, experience a serious illness, or be publicly humiliated—before speaking up. It is best to cure addiction as soon as possible.
Honestly, express your worries. Make it clear that you are concerned for the person’s welfare and that you care about them. Be honest about your own concerns and provide particular instances of your loved one’s drug-related conduct that have alarmed you.
Listen. Even if you disagree with someone, give them the benefit of the doubt and give them the benefit of the doubt while listening to what they have to say. Your loved ones will regard you as more supportive and confidant-worthy the more they feel heard from you.
Give them advice on how to deal with their drug use, including how to contact a hotline, consult a doctor or counselor, enroll in a treatment program, attend a group meeting like SMART Recovery, or join a 12-step program like Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
Be ready for rejection. Your loved one can become hostile or defensive and decline to talk about their drug usage. When faced with their behavior, many people experience shame and will make an effort to downplay or conceal their issues. Don’t dispute with them; simply bring up the subject again later.
Try to refrain from lecturing, threatening, bribing, or punishing the person. Making emotional appeals or getting furious will probably only increase the user’s sense of guilt and strengthen their addiction.
Expecting one chat to solve the issue is unrealistic. You’ll probably need to have a lot more conversations about your loved one’s drug use after this one. Overcoming addiction is a process that takes time. For them to even admit they have a problem—the first step toward recovery—it could take a few chats.
Supporting the Rehabilitation of a Loved One
The process of getting over a drug addiction is rarely simple or quick, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. While you can urge treatment and offer support to your loved one, you cannot dictate their choices or compel them to change. On their path to recovery, it’s crucial to let your loved ones take ownership of their actions and decisions.
You should adjust your goals. Everyone is unique. One person’s recovery might entail complete abstinence from narcotics. For someone else, it can entail reducing their drug use or avoiding them entirely. Even if your loved one returns to a stable life, having unrealistic expectations might leave them feeling let down and failing.
Instruct your loved one to seek assistance. While some people are able to stop using drugs on their own, a person’s chances of success increase with the amount of support and assistance they receive. Offer to accompany your loved one to a doctor’s appointment, a counseling session, or a peer support group meeting. Offer to sit with them while they dial a hotline.
Make sure they address any overlapping problems. Once your loved one is sober, the issues that initially led to their drug use will still exist. If they use drugs as a form of self-medication for a mental health condition like anxiety or depression, they will need to develop healthy ways to deal with these problems without abusing drugs. It’s crucial that people address both their addiction and their mental health issue at the same time if they want to achieve long-term recovery.
Plan beforehand for cravings and triggers. Your loved one will need to learn coping mechanisms for drug triggers and cravings. They must be accountable for maintaining their sobriety on their own; you can assist them by providing distractions through other activities or by encouraging them to learn how to resist the impulse.
Encourage them to pursue fresh passions. Your loved one may have a lot of spare time to occupy after quitting drugs. Encourage them to pursue new interests that don’t include drugs but still give their lives significance in order to prevent them from reverting to old routines. Think of activities like hiking or camping, volunteering, learning a new sport or hobby, enrolling in a class, or anything else that doesn’t cause a trigger to be used.
Recognize the possibility of relapse. Despite your best efforts and your loved one’s good intentions, relapse is a common part of treatment. If that occurs, support the individual as they recommit to getting sober and urge them to try again. Be as patient as you can. Your loved one can grow from their mistakes and discover a fresh path forward with each relapse.
Establishing Sound Boundaries
It’s simple to fall into the trap of protecting a loved one from the effects of their addiction when they have a drug problem. Enabling involves doing things like covering up for the person, taking on their responsibilities, prioritizing their feelings over your own or those of your other family members, rearranging your schedule to make room for their addiction, or giving them financial support when they can’t pay their bills or run into trouble with the law due to their drug use.
Even while it might seem like you’re helping, supporting your loved one will simply enable them to keep using, harming your own health and well-being in the process. Of course, it can be very difficult to say “no” to someone you care about, especially if that someone is your child, but by shielding the person from the negative effects of their drug use, you frequently take away their incentive to get assistance and change.
It’s frequently vital to keep someone with a drug addiction accountable for their conduct by setting limitations or boundaries for what is and isn’t appropriate behavior in order to better assist them. Without boundaries, your loved one will never have to deal with the repercussions of their acts, and you’ll eventually become exhausted from all the efforts you make to hide, rationalize, or make up for their behaviors.
Setting limits for a loved one who uses drugs could involve:
- preventing drug use, drug-related items, and other drug users from entering the house.
- Not taking on any of their neglected responsibilities, lying to get them out of trouble, or covering for them if they miss work or school.
- requiring them to promptly pay their proportion of the rent and other costs.
- refusing to provide them with funds to settle debts or pay for legal costs should they be arrested.
- insisting that they always respect you, even if they’re high.
How to Establish Limits and Uphold Them
When both of you are calm and not under the effect of drugs, talk to your loved one about boundaries. Make it clear what actions you will and won’t tolerate, as well as the repercussions if someone violates your rules.
Carry through Any restrictions you impose will almost certainly be tested by an addict, so be ready to carry them out. Your loved one will know the boundaries are meaningless if you don’t uphold the consequences you’ve specified, and their harmful behavior will continue.
Remember why you are acting in this manner. No one wants to see someone they care about struggle, yet limits are necessary for a healthy, respectful relationship to develop. Your loved one may be motivated to start using drugs or alcohol by having to deal with the negative effects of their actions.
Setting Financial Restrictions
For families of drug addicts, in addition to the significant emotional costs, mounting financial issues can also occur. Heavy drug usage, treatment, and settling legal issues brought on by your loved one’s drug abuse can be expensive. It’s not unusual for spouses to lose their houses while funding the addiction of a loved one, for parents to deplete their retirement funds while rescuing their child from debt, or for other family members to max out their credit cards to pay for pricey recovery facilities.
Cutting off your loved one nonetheless isn’t any simpler as a result. It’s crucial to think about how far you’re willing to go while establishing financial limitations. For instance, are you willing to let your loved one go to jail rather than pay their legal costs? Instead of covering their living expenses, are you willing to see them kicked out or forced to live on the streets?
Spending money on your loved one won’t make them stop using drugs or make them seek help, just as creating limits won’t do either. It won’t matter how much money you spend attempting to change something if your loved one decides not to deal with their addiction. The only thing you really have any influence over is how well you take care of your own health and welfare.
Looking After Oneself
The process of your loved one’s drug addiction recovery may take a while, and as it does, the effects on your own health, attitude, and well-being may worsen. In order to prevent burnout from the stress and annoyance that comes with assisting someone gets sober, it’s critical that you keep a healthy balance in your life.
Find assistance. Seek out assistance from close friends and family members you can rely on, as well as from a peer support group for families of drug users. Expressing what you’re going through may be really cathartic. Finding solace, assurance, and fresh coping mechanisms can be found through conversing with people who are dealing with comparable difficulties.
Stress management. Witnessing a loved one struggle with addiction can be extremely stressful. By maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, getting enough sleep, and engaging in relaxation exercises like yoga, deep breathing, or meditation, you can lower your stress levels. You can even advise your loved one to stop using drugs because stopping drugs can cause stress levels to rise.
Develop your acceptance. You’ve probably thought to yourself, “Why me? ” at least once. “or perhaps held yourself accountable for your loved one’s addiction struggles. However, concentrating on events that are beyond your control will simply deplete your energy and worsen your attitude. Learning to accept the things you can’t alter will help you concentrate on the things you can manage rather than looking for someone to blame or asking questions with difficult answers.
Keep up other relationships and hobbies. It’s simple for your loved one’s addiction fight to take over their life. However, when other aspects of your life are satisfying, you’ll find it simpler to handle a trying circumstance. Make time in your day to explore the interests and connections that make you happy while also making an effort to keep up with your work, hobbies, and social commitments.
If you are interested in more articles like this, here’s one about getting help for the underage drinking problem.