Addiction is a complex and harrowing disease but it can be almost as difficult to go through when it’s happening to someone you love. You don’t want to leave their life but you also don’t know how to help. A sad fact is that almost half of the American population know someone who is an addict, so it’s not unusual to be in this situation. The key is in doing what you can and learning how to live with it.
Sometimes, you may not realize that your loved one has a problem until it progresses to a point where it can no longer be ignored—there is no point in blaming yourself for this. Many addicts are particularly adept at hiding their addiction from the people they love. With certain drugs, like alcohol, it can be difficult to identify where the lines blur for someone who is very sociable and drinks regularly versus someone who has a drinking problem.
Although it’s not fully understood why one person will become addicted to a drug and another person won’t, there are psychological pointers that make some people more vulnerable to addiction.
Signs Your Loved One May Have an Addiction
If drugs or alcohol are having a negative impact on someone you love, this is a clear sign there’s a problem. It’s best to get the problem treated as soon as possible as the earlier addiction is identified and treated, the better chance your loved one has of a successful recovery.
If you’re not sure what’s going on with someone you love, here are some common signs to watch for:
- Money problems
- Although these aren’t a sign on their own, if it’s unclear why they have money issues, it may be from the rising costs of their abuse
- Less or no interest in previous hobbies
- Moodiness, especially rapid mood changes
- This can be due to withdrawal and the need for their next fix
- New, different friends that their old friends don’t like
- Problems at school or at work
- Withdrawing from friends and family
How Do I Convince My Loved One to Get Help?
It’s not an easy task, convincing someone they have a problem. Your loved one may be in complete denial and not see how much they’re messing up their life—sometimes, the addiction is so strong that they simply don’t care. The only thing that matters is getting their drug of choice. A private conversation is often not enough; usually, it takes the person themselves to really want help. There is the option to stage an intervention, but this should be handled very carefully and it’s advisable to seek the help of a trained individual.
Top Three Things to Realize
First, you must understand that you can’t fix anyone else—if this is your aim, then you’ll end up hurt and blaming yourself. No one person has control over another, only themselves. Once you have accepted this fact, then it becomes a little easier. You may be able to control some things, such as their environment, but you can’t make that person want to change or recover; that’s something only they can choose for themselves.
The second thing you need to do is set boundaries. Sometimes it can be hard to be assertive about your time, but if your loved one is making demands on your time to go and get high, then you need to learn to say no. This is one of the hardest parts of being around an addict, and being in a close relationship with one. Learn when and how to take your time back and draw the line at what is unacceptable. Keep your own life as balanced as possible—see your friends, do well in your job and keep your hobbies. This isn’t your illness: it’s theirs.
The third thing that you need to grasp when you’re living with an addict in your life is how to differentiate between helping them and enabling them. Many people get into situations they convince themselves are of benefit to the addict—that it’s preventing them from getting them into a worse situation. These can range from driving them to their dealer and giving them money to letting them stay in your home. You need to understand that these are enabling behaviors and figure out how to stop them. This can be heartbreaking, but the reality is that if you’re uncomfortable about anything you’re doing, then you need to draw a line and explain to them that you can’t help them anymore.
After Rehab – Helping Someone Stay Clean
When an addict gets clean, it can be like they’re learning how to do everything all over again. In order to support your loved one, you can offer a healthy environment and support new hobbies, taking part in activities with them that don’t include drugs or alcohol.
The changes inside their mind can be overwhelming, though, and for many, this new reality can be too much to take—up to 85% of people relapse after getting clean. If you asked yourself, “has my loved one relapsed?” the important thing is to have an honest conversation with them and let them know that they still have your love and support. You may feel disappointed and upset but it’s important to understand that this is also part of the process, and it doesn’t mean they’ve failed.
Loving an addict is certainly not something any of us ask to do, but there is plenty of support out there and people who are going through the same thing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek a local support group if you sometimes feel like it’s too much.