We now understand addiction is a disease – not a lack of will or a faulty character. If you just found out your loved one had cancer or diabetes, you would research it to find out all you could about the disease; it’s symptoms, treatments, and how to help. Addiction is the same, it can be devastating for the individual and all the people who love and care about them, but understanding more about it is an important first step for both you and your loved one.
Provide Support Not Blame
Realize that no one wants to be controlled by addiction. Your loved one probably already feels the shame and guilt of failure. They’re doing things they never thought they would to support their habit while hurting the ones they love the most. Set limits and boundaries that protect yourself, other family members, and children. Realize that anger, blaming, shaming, and nagging will most likely cause your loved one to tune out, turn away, and feel abandoned. According to Daniel Kivlahan (Ph.D. University of Washington) “There is good evidence that being abandoned by loved ones, in fact, hurts one’s chances of recovery.” Research shows that family members who know them best are an important part of an individual’s recovery.
Don’t try to do this alone. Talk to substance abuse specialists – counselors, doctors, and recovery groups that deal with substance abuse every day. Ask questions, seek treatments, programs, and options.
In Dayton and surrounding areas, contact Mission Addiction to help find local resources and programs through our navigation database. Our own “MAP For Healing & Recovery” could be an option. You can also join us at one of our one of weekly Lighthouse support meetings or set up a Lay Counseling appointment. Remember to take care of yourself. Don’t let the “family disease” of addiction isolate you from the people and things you enjoy and need most to help you through this.
Get Narcan Training
Many unnecessary deaths from accidental overdose can be prevented with the quick use of Naloxone (brand name Narcan). This temporarily reverses the effects of opioids and restores breathing until emergency help can arrive. Narcan is easy to use. Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone), an Ohio Department of Health program, provides training and free Narcan kits for anyone interested.
Recovery is a Journey
Your loved one’s addiction didn’t start overnight, nor will it be fixed quickly. The road to recovery can be a long journey with many potential setbacks and relapses, but it can be rewarding, too, bringing you closer together. Keep in mind – this is their recovery. While you can help them find treatments and programs – and encourage them with love and support – ultimately, they must be ready to get help and own their recovery.
Links to Help You Help Your Loved One:
Guidance for Concerned Significant Others (Smart Recovery)
How Compassion Can Help You Support an Addicted Loved One (Psychology Today)
10 Tips to Help Family Members of Addicts Cope (The Recovery Village)
Loving an Addict: How to Help an Addicted Loved One (The Recovery Village)
The CRAFT Approach to Helping Loved Ones Get Help (Sober Families)
Do’s and Don’ts for Dealing with an Addict in Your Life (Narconon)
How to Support a Friend Whose Loved One is Addicted (Grey Ministries)