How to Help a Loved One Separate from an Addiction

Addictions are incredibly difficult to overcome. When a loved one is suffering from an addiction, it has a significant impact on those around them, including you.  Naturally, you don’t like to watch them suffer, and you’re searching for ways to help.

The fact is that loved ones are the best equipped to help because of their preexisting loving and trustworthy relationship.

Here is a list of tips to keep in mind when helping someone with addictions:

  1. Help Them Make Clearer Decisions. Someone in early recovery generally has cloudy thinking. If you sense concern from them, help them gather their thoughts by asking open-ended questions of who, what, where, when, and how (never why), and don’t forget to add in a suggestion as they might not have thought of that option yet. Make sure you do not talk down or judge them, encourage them on their choices, and affirm them in their independence.
  2. Love and Support is needed. Someone suffering from addiction is steeped in shame and guilt. They know what they are doing is not the way they want to live; they do not see a way out. Your love and Support may be the lifeline and hope they needed to make the sustaining change as much as you can encourage and affirm them in what they are doing and stay away from the word why, it provokes a fight or flight response.
  3. Help Them Through Cravings. Withdrawal has physical and mental cravings. The physical cravings can mimic the flu. Help them through this, and your bond will grow. The mental obsession of thinking about using can be intervened with good company as well as suggesting and participating in other things they can do besides using.
  4. Get Medical Help. Sometimes we need medical and behavioral health professionals to step in.  A professional may be necessary to address their psychological state, and in case of withdrawal, it can be life-threatening for them to detox themselves off of alcohol or benzodiazepines.
  5. Form an Intervention. The most loving thing you can do is to get the individual’s family support network together, come together in a unity of love to show an individual that they are there for them and that you love them and are willing to help them and no longer support them dying. For someone steeped in shame and guilt, this could be the moment that provides hope and courage to take the right step forward and gives them back their lives.
  6. Attend a Meeting. Develop a community. We are at our peak when we are in community with one another. There are open and closed meetings that you can attend that are geared toward those with an addiction or those who have a loved one suffering from an addiction. Open meetings are just that open to all. Closed meetings are for those that self-identify as having an addiction or knowing someone who has an addiction. Being together, we are stronger than being alone.
  7. Understand Withdrawal. It will help you to learn to identify signs of withdrawal and the reasons for them. There are symptoms of withdrawal that mimic the flu as well as difficulty sleeping. There are also withdrawal symptoms that center in the mind. These signs can come from anger outbursts and high irritability.  
  8. Avoid Boredom and Stress. Staying busy is great in early recovery. Having a plan of where you are going and what you are doing for the day or week is critical. Help your loved one with some basic routines for themselves to get to. The greatest road to help with boredom is in establishing routines. For example, getting up at the same time every day is one of the biggest game-changers in taking back control of their lives. Once up, keep moving! Participate in activities such as walking or doing push ups every hour will also help reduce stress. Come up with a list of go-to activities, dancing, reading, etc.. a body in positive motion will stay in that motion.

Remember that it’s important to make time for you. The negative impact physically, mentally, and spiritually on the health of the loved one of someone suffering from an addiction is easily understated.  You are expending a tremendous amount of energy to help your loved one, and you may not notice it.  We need to take care of ourselves because your love and support will help your loved one recover and lead a normal life. Just like following the directions of the flight attendant on an airplane, if the oxygen mask drops, make sure you put it on yourself first so that you can be helpful to those around you.

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