How Loved Ones Can Help

There are many things a loved one can do to help the person in their lives who are struggling with drug and alcohol abuse and/or addiction problems. Here are some suggestions:

Don’t enable the behavior. Don’t make it easy for your loved one to keep abusing drugs. Consider how you might be feeding their habit. For example, a mom gives her teenage son money for lunch and the mall. He kept asking for more money more often. Turns out, he was using the cash to buy drugs.

A loved one also might make excuses for a family member who misses work after a night of drug use. “Covering for the behavior allows it to continue longer than it might”. Let life’s natural consequences take their course. The drug or alcohol abusing individual needs to feel the negative effects of their poor choices so that they can fully realize the extent of the situation they are actually in.

Talk to your loved one – and stick to the facts. When approaching your loved one, be as straightforward and objective as possible. It’s certainly easier said than done, but try to keep your emotions out of the conversation.

“Whether they’re almost or full-on addicted, most people live in denial”. So if you tell someone “I think you’re abusing drugs,” they’ll likely just deny it. Instead, let the facts drive your conversation. Say “I noticed your eyes were bloodshot and you showed up late to work.” Using hard facts and real events will drive home the point much better than being wishy-washy about what you think may or may not be going on with them.

Ask others to step in. If your loved one is in denial, gather support.

Employ leverage. If your loved one refuses help — or again is still in denial —employ any leverage you can (within legal limits, of course). Use the 7 Cs of leverage: cash, credit card, checks, car, cell phone, computer and curfew.

When you have little or no leverage, rely on the law. For instance, while it’s incredibly difficult, if your loved one is facing legal charges, “let the law run its course.” Often, these individuals will be put on probation, which includes drug testing. “any period of enforced sobriety is better than no sobriety.”

Acting on your suspicions: If you suspect that your loved one is using drugs, you should voice your suspicions openly — avoiding direct accusations — when he or she is sober or straight and you’re calm.

This may mean waiting until the next day if he comes home drunk, or if they reek of marijuana, etc.. Ask about what’s been going on — in school/work and out — and discuss how to avoid using drugs and alcohol in the future. If you encounter reluctance to talk, enlist the aid of your loved one’s family members, sober friends, school guidance counselor, family physician — they may get a better response. Also explore what could be going on in your loved one’s emotional or social life that might prompt drug use.

Taking the time to discuss the problem openly without turning away is an important first step on the road to recovery. It shows that loved one’s well-being is crucial to you and that you still love them, although you hate what they are doing to themself.

But you should also show your love by being firm and enforcing whatever discipline your family has agreed upon for violating house rules. You should go over ways to regain the family’s trust such as calling in, spending evenings at home, and improving grades.

Even in the face of mounting evidence, parents often have a hard time acknowledging that their child has an alcohol, tobacco, or drug problem. Anger, resentment, guilt, and a sense of failure are all common reactions, but it is important to avoid self-blame. Drug abuse occurs in families of all economic and social backgrounds, in happy and unhappy homes alike. Most important is that the faster you act, the sooner your child can start to become well again.

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