As of 2017, 19.7 million Americans aged 12 and above were struggling with addiction.
More than likely, you or someone you know has needed drug addiction support. Fortunately for you, there are several resources available to persons seeking recovery.
Read on to learn about helpful strategies you can use for anyone suffering from addiction.
How to Help a Drug Addict: 5 Helpful Things You Can Do
When assisting those struggling with addiction, there are several steps you can take. Helping an addict is rarely done alone, requiring several resources and people to help whoever is in need. The following are helpful things you can do.
1. Learn More About Addiction
There are many myths and assumptions about people struggling with addiction. It is essential to understand the actual symptoms when helping an addict. Some signs of addiction are hidden, making the underlying problem easy to ignore.
One After Another
With alcohol addiction, as tolerance increases, an addict can likely cope with the physical side effects more quickly. It is easy to dismiss excessive drinking as a treat or social habit when it may be an actual problem.
When living with a drug addict, you might hear a lot of excuses about missing responsibilities or commitments (e.g., late bills, reasons for long work hours). Often, these are lies to cover a bigger problem. You may also see odd changes in behavior, such as negative moods or unusual irritation.
Where to Learn More
Although there are several resources to consult when supporting a drug addict, if you want to learn more, consider national organizations such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). Not only do they provide a national helpline with year-round, 24/7 support. They also provide confidential information for addicts and their loved ones to connect you with the best resources available.
2. Seek Support
Drug addiction support comes in many shapes in forms. Whether you are living with a drug addict or not, it is essential to turn to others when seeking recovery for yourself or a loved one. After turning to a resource like SAMSHA for more information, you must find people to support you or your loved one.
Although friends and family are a critical resource for anyone struggling with addiction, they should not be the only people to which you turn. Whether there are personal grievances that make close social support strained or merely a lack of knowledge, addiction groups are a great option.
Two of the most well-known organizations available include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Both AA and NA come with accompanying support groups for families of addicts, living with a drug addict more possible. These groups are called Al-Anon and Nar-Anon.
For your local chapter of any of these groups, call SAMSHA.
3. Set Boundaries and Expectations
When you have found the support for helping an addict, it is time to set boundaries and expectations. This is often the hardest part of the journey when seeking recovery. It usually requires enormous sacrifices for those struggling with addiction.
- Your first step is to stop any enabling behaviors, no matter how tempting it is to give in and "help." Enabling sets recovery back potentially from the start.
- Don't take responsibility for an addict's behavior.
- Put the needs of others, yourself included, before that of addiction.
- Avoid holding onto relationships only out of a fear of abandonment.
- Don't blame the addict for his or her sickness; no one has control over addiction.
- Use positive influence to support a drug addict in seeking recovery.
- Don't lose hope. Failure and trying again are a huge part of overcoming addiction.
These are just a few boundaries and expectations to set when helping an addict. They primarily focus on cutting off codependent and enabling tactics. For other limitations or expectations, consider those parts of recovery unique to you or your loved one.
4. Research Your Options
Even with addiction support groups, persons struggling with addiction usually require more support. Depending on the severity of the addiction, treatment options may vary.
It is important to respect an addicted person's free will. Committing an unwilling person to in-patient rehabilitation is not only unjust or unethical but is usually illegal. This can grow their resentment and encourage defiance and a return to substance use.
Instead, when helping an addict find treatment options, be flexible. Ensure that you or your loved one is aware of all the possibilities. Rehab is not for everyone. There are also different forms of rehabilitation, too (e.g., outpatient).
Of course, there is also counseling. Family counseling is often very helpful in recovery for rebuilding trust and forgiveness. Both individual and group therapy can help teach useful techniques for those seeking recovery, too.
If you are not at your best, you risk poorly supporting a drug addict. Poor support, even with the best intentions, is no support when helping an addict. Struggling with addiction takes a lot out addicts, as well as anyone living with a drug addict.
The best thing you can do is learn to say no to giving too much and when to stop yourself from burning out. Taking care of yourself with support groups or counseling is an excellent option if you do not have others to turn to share the burden of supporting a drug addict.
Struggling With Addiction: A Long Journey
Helping an addict overcome addiction is not an easy road to follow. It requires a large amount of patience, hope, understanding, and work. Struggling with addiction begins and ends with forgiveness.
You or your loved one may find it difficult to forgive—both yourself and the addict. Often, those supporting addicts may say or do things out of frustration or resentment. Addiction hurts everyone, not just the addict.
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