When someone is engaged in substance-use, they often believe they’re only causing harm to themselves.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. The person’s family and loved ones suffer a great deal of pain and confusion as well.
“How could someone I love so much put alcohol or drugs before their family?” they ask.
It can be a very difficult to watch someone you care about progressively decline in their substance abuse. These changes usually occur over time. For most who struggle with addiction, it starts with experimentation. Before long, the substance use goes from being a social or occasional partaking to a seemingly essential component of life.
As this progression happens, the individual will display certain behavioral changes, some more visible than others: caring less about personal hygiene; loss of interest in hobbies and pastimes; sudden, unexplained mood swings; and so on. Sometimes the changes are subtle. Other times, they can happen very quickly. If the person’s use goes unchecked, it gets to a point where you genuinely believe they can’t possibly get worse—until they do.
Addiction can be a very shameful experience for the person that is suffering. One response is to distance themselves from loved ones and friends. They don’t want the truth to be known. Financial instability is common, resulting in the excessive need for financial help, or worse, stealing from loved one’s to support the flow of drugs or alcohol.
Usually, one’s substance use can be effectively hidden from family and friends—at least for a time. Sooner or later, however, the cat gets out of the bag: Maybe it’s a DUI, or paraphernalia left in the bathroom. As it becomes clear there’s a problem, the next steps can seem very daunting for the person’s loved ones, most of whom haven’t had to deal with anything like this before.
When it becomes clear that the person is harming themselves through substance use, and the family wants to help, it’s important that they receive guidance from people with experience. That may seem daunting, as there are so many treatment options out there. Calling treatment providers and asking questions, to get a feel for the type of care your loved one will be given, is a great place to start. You want to feel like the person on the other end of the phone is vested in the recovery of your loved one, not being pressured or rushed to make a split-second decision.
Sometimes that person isn’t even at the treatment facility, but part of a referral service. That doesn’t instill a lot of confidence. What you should be looking for is someone willing to take time and answer all your questions. If possible, you might ask to tour the location.
The key point is this: Find a program that is willing to help compassionately guide you through each step of the process. It’s best to be armed with the facts on treatment options before trying to perform an intervention. Doing your homework first will go a long way in ensuring that conversation is a healthy and productive one.
When someone needs help, support from family and friends is paramount. The challenge—and it’s a crucial one—is to figure out what support is helpful, and what support is merely helping them continue their destructive behavior. When people are ready to get help for their loved one, it’s usually good to have a list of healthy boundaries that can be easily implemented: things like halting financial support, or no longer providing housing for the affected individual.
Remember: When approaching the family member, whether or not to seek help is ultimately their choice. Setting these boundaries should only happen if they’re unwilling to accept that help, to protect the family from future harm. If the person is ready to seek help, the family may then proceed to immediately get them connected with a treatment provider. As they’ve already done their research, they know exactly what the next step should be.
Once someone agrees to accept help, there’s often a small window of time that they remain willing, before the urge to use substances returns. Having help on standby reduces the possibility of a loved not getting help they need. Once the individual arrives at treatment, not only are they beginning their own road to recovery; their loved ones are right there with them.
To learn more about the unique treatment options that Providence Retreat offers, please click here.
Justin Reid, Director of Operations at Providence Retreat