According to the 2019 World Drug Report, as released by the U N. Office on Drugs and Crime, there are an estimated 35 million individuals globally who are suffering from drug use disorder and who require treatment.
Addiction is tough. Learning that one of your family members or friends is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction can be heartbreaking. Knowing such can leave you feeling hurt, angry, and even confused.
It is only but natural that you would feel overwhelmed right now. However, keep in mind that all hope is not lost. Addicts still have countless chances to recover, and you can help them get there.
You might be wondering right now how you can help your loved one who is suffering from addiction. It is not always easy, but them having a strong support system significantly helps in speeding up recovery.
Each situation is unique, but there are some dos and don’ts that could generally help your loved one:
Dos & Don’ts in Helping a Loved One Struggling With Addiction
Upon noticing signs of addiction in your loved one — such as alcohol or drug addiction — you would need to figure out how to talk and treat them in a way that is positive and helpful. In fact, there are plenty of ways to do this — some may seem easy, but others require a little more effort and understanding.
Do: Show Compassion
Always remember that addiction is a disease.
If someone you know is suffering a physical disease such as diabetes or cancer, would you fault that person for having such a condition? Of course not. We are more likely to show compassion and be willing to go out of our way to help them survive their illness.
The same amount of compassion and understanding should also be shown to people suffering from addiction. Instead of seeing their affliction as a choice or a character flaw, view it as a disease.
Keep in mind as well that there might be external factors that can cause an addiction. Addiction might be their way of coping, providing temporary relief to alleviate stress.
Don’t: Criticize or Shame
It is always easier to understand the problem when we know its source. As with addiction, we often shift the blame on the individual suffering from addiction.
We need to understand however that addiction is not black and white. Essentially, there is never exactly just one thing to blame. Most importantly though is that the person who is addicted is not at fault for having such a disease.
Though easier said than done, try your best not to imply or outright say that your loved one is to blame for his/her infliction. Shaming or criticizing a family member or a friend who is struggling with this disease is only counterproductive for their recovery.
Tough love is no place for someone who is trying to get over addiction. Rather than being critical, offer encouragement and positivity that the idea of long-term recovery is attainable.
Do: Anticipate Challenges
Rehabilitation can be difficult for both of you and your loved one.
There are plenty of reasons why a person suffering from addiction is reluctant to undergo treatment, even if it is a private rehabilitation facility. They may feel ashamed, fear the stigma that comes with being an addict, or they may be in denial.
The risk of falling into relapse is also something that becomes a cloud of dread for everyone. But since it is not at all helpful to dwell on it, focus instead all your energies on creating positivity and encouragement.
Don’t: Expect Immediate Change
It is always best to set realistic expectations. The road to long-term recovery is not a quick fix. The whole process is continuous for everyone involved — professionals, family members, and your loved one who is suffering from addiction.
Keep in mind that a treatment may work for some time, but eventually it has to be changed. Also, though one treatment may fail, it does not mean that all others would fail as well. It just simply means, you still have to find that one specific treatment that will work for your family member or friend.
Final Word: Educate Yourself and Avoid Enabling Your Loved One
Educating yourself about addiction and treatment goes a long way in helping someone who is inflicted by such illness. For example, if you have someone in the family suffering from alcoholism, learn more about such a disease. Find out more about its symptoms and treatments available.
Also, you need to remember always that there is a fine line between helping someone afflicted with addiction and enabling them. Rather than enable them to continue with their destructive pattern, allow your loved one to learn from the consequences of his/her actions.
Plenty of research has pointed out that people suffering from addiction are more likely to seek treatment when they have no other choice but face the consequences of their actions.