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How Can I Help an Addict?

Watching a loved one sink deeper into addiction is terrifying. However, you don’t have to stand by helplessly — in fact, you can play a monumental role when helping a person recover from addiction. Recognizing Addiction Even when an overwhelming amount of evidence points to addiction, admitting to addiction is more difficult than you might expect. All substances — including all drugs and alcohol — trick your loved one’s perception of risk and reward. Substance abuse also warps memory and learning. This is why your loved one might insist everything is fine even when you know it isn’t. Your loved one’s close friends and family might also have a hard time believing the truth. If you notice any of the following signs or symptoms, your loved one may need professional help:

  • Denying or hiding using
  • The onset of physical or emotional withdrawal symptoms after an attempt to stop using. This might include flu-like symptoms, shakiness, exhaustion or insomnia, anxiety, or irritability
  • Using at unusual times, such as in the morning
  • Keeping extra drugs around, “just in case” they become necessary
  • Problems with reputation and relationships that seem to be getting worse
  • Hanging out with a new crowd, or spending more time alone
  • Forgetting about favorite friends and activities to focus on using

Admitting the Problem Once you have accepted that your loved one has a substance abuse problem, your next step is to help him admit it. Plan in advance what you want to say. Choose a quiet time when you can speak alone, and preferably when your loved one is sober. Do not raise your voice, or use judgmental language. Have specific examples ready to share. For example, you might point out certain health problems, such as an overdose, or a reputation problem, such as getting arrested. Explain that you think getting help can help solve these problems, and provide your loved one with the fresh start he or she needs. Understanding Shame One of the biggest obstacles in substance abuse recovery is shame. Many addicted individuals are deeply ashamed of their behavior, which causes them to put off asking for help. Unfortunately, the longer your loved one waits, the harder getting sober will be. Explain to your loved one that he isn’t alone, and that addiction is not a moral failing. If your loved one gets treatment that is personalized for his specific needs, he can make a full recovery. Providing Ongoing Support Addicted individuals who have a strong emotional support structure in place are more likely to get and stay sober. It is important that you and others who care for your loved one are ready to provide this support. This may be as simple as listening, spending time together, and helping him avoid dangerous situations after rehab. For more information on helping a loved one get sober, contact The Ranch PA. (photo via)

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