How to help a loved one into addiction treatment
Witnessing a person you care about struggle with an addiction to drugs or alcohol can be a heart-breaking experience. As you watch your friend or family member slowly begin to prioritise their substance of choice above all else, you will see a steady decline in their health and well-being, but you may feel powerless to stop their addictive behaviours.
Additionally, you may feel hurt, angry or frustrated if your loved one’s substance misuse has negatively affected your life. Perhaps you have had to compensate for their lack of ability to meet their obligations at home, school or work because of their substance misuse concerns. Or maybe you have had to miss opportunities or jeopardise your own financial stability because of your loved one’s drinking or drug addiction. Often, the negative consequences of a person’s addiction will spill over into all areas of their lives, even damaging relationships with the people they love.
But in spite of the frustration you will likely still wish to do all you can to help your loved one regain control of their life, and to see them overcome the addiction that has caused them so much harm.
Addiction treatment: first steps
Before you can begin a conversation about treatment with your loved one, there are some preliminary steps you must take to familiarise yourself with a few important aspects of the process. As you prepare to encourage your loved one to enter a programme to address their addiction, please consider the following:
- Consider what substance(s) your loved one is misusing and research the ways that these substances impact the mind and body. In doing so, you will gain valuable insight into your loved one’s experience
- Speak to an addiction professional in your community (local GP or support group), and ask them about the treatment programming options in the area. Try to learn about specific types of supports which you feel would be a good fit for your loved one
- Engage others in your efforts to support your loved one. Perhaps there are other close friends or family members who share your concerns and who wish to help. By uniting these individuals, no one person will feel solely responsible for convincing your loved one to enter treatment
Talking about addiction treatment
Having some anxiety or uncertainty prior to your first conversation about treatment with your loved one is an entirely normal experience. The decision to enter residential care can be life-altering, and the suggestion to do so may be met with some initial resistance.
For individuals who have become trapped within the cycle of substance misuse, entering treatment represents the unknown, and the unknown is often regarded with fear. When drugs and/or alcohol have become primary coping tools for stress, these individuals understandably worry what life will be like once those are no longer available.
Before you sit down to speak to your loved one and encourage them to seek treatment, please reflect on the following:
- No matter what hardships you have had to endure as a result of your loved one’s substance misuse, keep the focus on your loved one’s needs throughout the conversation
- Expect some resistance to the idea of treatment, but maintain a tone of compassion and empathy and reassure your loved one of your sincere desire to see them overcome their addiction
- Remember to listen reflectively; no one understands your loved one’s experience of substance misuse better than they do
- Offer options, not orders, and be prepared to accompany your loved one to any appointments, assessments or consultations that they agree to attend