How To Help A Loved One That's Struggling With An Addiction

By Addiction Helpline America
December 16, 2019

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Helping a loved one with an addiction is one of the most challenging things you will need to do. Below, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions we receive from individuals that are trying to help a loved one who is struggling with an addiction.

How can you tell if someone is struggling with an addiction? You may suspect that a loved one is struggling with an addiction, yet you may be unsure as to whether this is indeed the case and whether or not to take steps to help. It can help to understand some of the most common symptoms that are associated with addiction. Includes the following:

  • Poor hygiene or neglected appearance
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms whenever the person is unable to take the drug
  • Lashing out, becoming sad or angry when someone questions about their substance abuse
  • Lying about the substance or the amount they are using
  • Stealing valuables or money to pay for the drugs
  • Attending social events only if alcohol or drugs are available
  • Developing issues at school or work, for example, dropping out of school or losing a job
  • Appearing tired or unwell
  • Sleeping irregular hours or sleeping more and being lethargic
  • Developing issues with memory and cognition
  • Looking intoxicated more and more often
  • When someone is struggling with substance abuse issues, they are likely to behave differently when they are sober compared to when they are intoxicated. They may take serious risks with their life, for example, driving while they are drunk, or they may do and say hurtful things. It is only natural that issues like this can cause intense fear and worry for you. For someone who loves them, but it is important to recognize that they are not acting like their usual selves.

    What should you do if you are in a co-dependent relationship? It is easy for people to fall into the trap of being in a co-dependent relationship if someone they love is struggling with an addiction. All this means is that your desire to show love and help the other person can end up fostering their addiction. Of course, this is not your intention, but it is something that can often happen. It is, therefore, essential to be aware of the signs of codependency. This includes the following:

  • Not being able to set personal boundaries. Do you find that you are more likely to say ‘yes’ to any requests your loved one makes? Even if you are not comfortable with the request in question?
  • You have trouble talking about your feelings. You don’t regard your own needs or how these can be met.
  • You hold onto the relationship so that you do not feel abandoned by your loved one. Do you fear that you will be rejected or abandoned by the person who is suffering from addiction?
  • Do you find that you always put the other person’s feelings first? While you are concerned about your loved one, you still need to make sure that you consider your feelings as well as the feelings of the other people you love too.
  • Do you take responsibility for the addict? This is one of the most significant signs that you are in a co-dependent relationship with your loved one. You may feel that you have a heightened responsibility for their thoughts, behaviors, and decisions. You may feel a need to make sure that your loved one is happy, even if it is coming to a point whereby it costs your happiness. You may also feel like you need to protect your loved one; for example, you may call their boss and make an excuse when they are too hungover to make it to work.
  • Our friends and family helpless? A lot of people believe that friends and family are helpless when it comes to helping someone with an addiction. You may have heard other friends or family members tell you that this is the case and that you are wasting your time. However, this can be further from the truth. While you cannot force someone to quit a substance, there are some actions that you can take to provide the loved one with the assistance they need to get the right treatment. Some of the things you can do are as follows.

  • Encourage treatment for your loved one.
  • Gain education regarding the addiction your loved one is experiencing.
  • Address any of the underlying reasons why the person you love ended up with an addiction.
  • Use assertive communication to find compromise.
  • Give verbal and physical encouragement when the person who is addicted achieves something good.
  • Speak with optimism and possibility
  • Be consistent with consequences, promises, expectations, and rules.
  • There are also some things that you should not do while you are trying to help a loved one struggling with addiction problems. This includes the following.

  • Do not place the entire responsibility on the person who has the addiction.
  • Do not speak in an accusing or cynical way, as this can cause the person to feel guilty and shame.
  • Do not punish the person for failing to keep sobriety.
  • Hopefully, you now have a better idea of how to help a loved one who is struggling with an addiction. There is no denying that this can be one of the most challenging things that any person goes through. However, if you follow the advice that is here, you will put yourself in the best possible position to help your family member or friend.

    If you have any questions or concerns contact Addiction Helpline America at (844)-377-8070 we're available 24/7.


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