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How to Help Someone with Addiction

8 minute read

It’s not easy watching a loved one go down the dark path of substance abuse and mental health concerns. Family and friends often feel powerless while searching for how. Relationships are complex enough already. When addiction is added, they get more confusing for everyone.

The good news is there are ways to help a spouse, a sibling, a child, or a friend make positive changes and overcome their struggles with drugs and alcohol. One of the best ways is to seek professional help from a certified addiction treatment center like Footprints to Recovery. Rehab centers provide recovery methods for addiction, such as:

These are part of programs like:

The staff at treatment centers have skills and experience in treating people with addiction problems. They’re able to guide the person in question on how best to manage their recovery process.

Signs of Substance Abuse

If a spouse or other family member or a friend needs substance abuse treatment, there are several signs to look out for. These signs can be divided into three subcategories: physical, emotional, and social.

Physical Signs of Substance Abuse

The physical signs of substance abuse disorders can be obvious or difficult to notice. Finding drugs, alcohol, or paraphernalia, or finding someone mid-use are obvious signs. More subtle signs of addiction to alcohol or drugs like cocaine, meth, heroin, or prescription drugs include:

  • Asking for money often
  • Unexplained injuries or bruises
  • Changes in appetite
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • A change in pupil size
  • Nosebleeds
  • Strange odors
  • Poor personal hygiene

Emotional Signs of Addiction

Substance abuse takes its toll on everyone. The mental health issues that arise from abuse can be difficult to hide, though some manage to do it for years or even decades. If your wife or brother, aunt, or adult child started acting differently than usual, you’d want to know why, especially when the changes in behavioral health are so negative, like mood swings, apathy, or swinging from lethargic to hyperactive in a short period. Perhaps a loved one is lying, and you know it but don’t understand why they’re acting that way. Alcohol or drug addiction could be the culprit.

Social Signs of Addiction

Humans are very social beings. We live, work, learn, and grow alongside one another and rely on each other for support. Changes in social patterns could mean someone is struggling with substance abuse. For instance, someone you love could be staying out later or spending time with a new group of people. They may not enjoy the same places or activities they did before. They may start skipping out on obligations like school, work, or hobbies. These are all potential red flags of addiction.

If you suspect that someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, it’s important to reach out and offer support as soon as possible.

How Addiction Affects Family Relationships

The addiction struggles and behavioral health issues of a family member can have a devastating effect on relationships within the family unit. Seeing any loved one fall into the terrifying cycle of addiction can strain even a healthy relationship. Husbands and wives struggle to cope as they watch their spouse become unstable due to substance abuse. It can be confusing and scary to watch a sibling struggle with drugs and alcohol.

Addiction can cause trust issues in relationships. That makes it difficult for those closest to the addict to understand what the addict is going through. Feelings of guilt, shame, anger, frustration, and helplessness often lead to strained communication between family members. This lack of communication can cause further rifts in already fragile relationships. The group therapy and family therapy available in drug and alcohol treatment programs can be great resources for developing communication skills and healing relationships.

While all family members involved will inevitably be impacted by addiction, it’s important to recognize that it affects everyone differently.

How Can You Help Someone with Addiction?

It is important for family members or close friends of someone suffering from addiction to understand the situation they are facing. Addiction affects everyone in a different way and understanding why someone has turned to substance abuse can help you provide love and support. Past trauma may be a factor. Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or stress can also play a role in a substance abuse disorder.

Regardless of why someone abuses drugs and alcohol, the important thing is to get them help. One way to start the process of helping a partner, child, sibling, or any loved one with recovery is through an intervention.

What Is an Intervention?

An intervention is an organized meeting between a person struggling with addiction and their family, friends, or loved ones. The purpose of this meeting is to express love and concern for the person and their drug or alcohol abuse. It is important to remember that addiction is not a choice; it’s an illness that requires professional help for effective treatment. An intervention can get the ball rolling towards long-term recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.

An intervention should be thoughtfully planned out while focusing on offering solutions instead of blame or guilt. Ultimately, the goal of an intervention is to create a safe space where those involved can openly discuss addiction without fear of judgement or criticism.

Encouraging someone to reach out for professional addiction treatment is one of the most important things you can do as a loved one. Addiction treatment centers provide the best chance at getting your wife, husband, sister, brother, son, or daughter the long-term sobriety they need. Showing your love and support through this difficult time is critical in helping someone cope with an addiction and return to a healthier life.

Should your loved one resist getting help from an alcohol or drug abuse treatment program, the best thing to do is show your love and support. They may be open to listening to the points you’re making, or they may be angry, upset, or feel blindsided. In the end, your loved one needs to be ready and willing to get help, or effective treatment is difficult. Treatment plans are usually not a success when an individual doesn’t believe they have a problem or recognize the need for addiction recovery.

Show Love and Compassion

The first is to show love and compassion. When a person feels valued, it can improve their self-esteem. Treating someone poorly can have the opposite effect. Showing anger or using hurtful terms can lower someone’s self-esteem. It can make feelings of loneliness and isolation grow worse. Take time to show a loved one they are a part of the family or friend group. This can push out the need to use drugs and alcohol due to emotional pain.

Educate Yourself

Learning how addiction works can be extremely helpful. There are many triggers and stressors that can lead someone to start using alcohol or drugs. The list of reasons is nearly endless. Putting yourself in their shoes can be a helpful exercise. Then you can start to help them using knowledgeable and prepared suggestions.

There are also educational resources available for those who want to know more about addiction. The SAMHSA National Helpline is a free and confidential information service that can be reached at 1-800-662-HELP. The American Society of Addiction Medicine is another valuable substance abuse disorder resource. The society operates an informative website with information about what addiction is, a personal needs assessment, guides for families, and more.

On a local level, attending Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings can offer valuable insight into the addiction community. Learning from those who have lived through addiction can offer guidance into helping your own loved one get help for addiction. An internet search for “AA + your location” will show the meetings in your area.

Stop Being an Enabler

Enablers are friends or family members who make it easier for someone to continue their addiction. They might do this by:

  • Providing money
  • Providing housing
  • Giving them rides to places
  • Making excuses for their behavior

Enabling can be outright, or it can be subtle. Giving someone money to buy drugs is outright enabling an addiction problem. Calling in sick to work for someone who is too hungover to go is more subtle, but it is still enabling behavior.

Enabling behaviors often stem from family members and close friends who want to help but do not understand the severity of the situation they are enabling. When loved ones enable an addict’s behavior, it keeps that person stuck in a cycle of dependency and prevents them from seeking meaningful help. Enablers put others at risk as well as themselves, since they may be unknowingly contributing to someone else’s substance abuse disorder.

Treatment Options for Substance Abuse

Footprints to Recovery assists family members in getting their loved ones help for their mental and physical health. The treatment programs and addiction counseling techniques available for mental health and substance abuse treatment are evidence-based and backed by science. Certified therapists work with clients on skill development like behavioral skills, coping skills, and relapse-prevention skills. These skills play an important role in safe and effective treatment.

Detox is often a necessary part of addiction treatment that can cause concern. In most cases, it’s essential for your loved one to detox in a medical setting with the help of trained professionals. This is even more true for those who are struggling with addiction to drugs like opioids or have been using any drugs and alcohol over an extended period of time. Detoxing without professional supervision can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms that may need immediate medical attention.

Before beginning any type of detox program, it’s important to speak with addiction counselors about the risks involved and ensure that the necessary support is in place throughout the process. Doing so will help increase your chances of staying safe while you work towards reclaiming your life free from drugs and alcohol.

The rehab program paths offered by Footprints to Recovery include:

Footprints to Recovery uses the latest evidence-based treatment approaches that can address your loved one’s substance abuse problem. When someone receives a dual diagnosis, for example, they suffer from both a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, and an addiction.

Some of the most effective methods for recovery in these instances include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – CBT is a type of therapy that seeks to identify and change problematic thought patterns and behavior that contribute to the development or maintenance of an addiction. CBT techniques focus on teaching new skills, such as:

  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Stress reduction
  • Anger management
  • Relapse prevention

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) – DBT uses cognitive behavioral strategies with wellness practices to help individuals better regulate their emotions and behaviors so they can lead more meaningful lives free from addiction and mental health issues. DBT has been used effectively to treat a variety of mental health issues such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Addiction

How to Pay for Rehab

As you’re thinking about how to help someone with addiction, you’re probably wondering how to pay for rehab. Options include insurance and private payments. If your loved one has health insurance, they should check with their insurance carrier to determine what level of coverage it provides. Depending on the insurance plan, some or all of their treatment may be covered. For those without insurance, paying out of pocket may be an option, but the cost can add up. Many treatment centers will work with their clients to outline a treatment program that fits within their insurance plan and recovery needs.

Contact Footprints to Recovery today for a free insurance verification to see what addiction treatment options are available to help your loved one get free of drugs and alcohol.  

Evan Gove
Jenna Richer
Author Evan Gove
Medically Reviewed by Jenna Richer, MSW, LCSW
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