supporting a loved one with addiction problems

Unfortunately, addiction affects 20 million people per year in the United States. These staggering numbers mean that most of us will know and love someone affected by addiction. Although this is a common problem, it’s still rarely discussed, and many people are left unsure of how to best support their loved ones or their families as they navigate their addiction and move toward healing.

Identifying Addiction

If you think someone you care about might be struggling with addiction, here is a helpful list that can help you identify warning signs.

  • Have they tried to cut back or stop using a substance but cannot do so?
  • Do they use a substance more then than they intend to?
  • Does this person spend much time looking for the substance, using and recovering from it?
  • Have they acknowledged that the substance causes an adverse physical or emotional condition but continue using it?
  • Does this person use this substance at inappropriate times, such as before watching children or driving a car?
  • Does this person have trouble managing their responsibilities at home or work?
  • Has this person given up activities that used to be important to them?
  • Does this person use this substance even if it causes problems in their relationships?
  • Does this person show signs of abuse?

If a person you love is exhibiting at least two of these signs over the past year, it could indicate the person struggles with substance abuse.

Understanding Addiction

After you’ve identified addiction, the next step is understanding it. A challenging part of dealing with addiction is realizing that the abuser will often choose the substance they are addicted to over their relationships.

This choice can cause their support system to pull away, further isolating the person with their addiction. Because this disorder is a behavior characterized by compulsive use of substances, despite the negative consequences, it can feel like your loved one is choosing their addiction over you. Unfortunately, addiction can alter a person’s brain chemistry to lose control over their behavior. Although they might love their family very much, they may feel unable to control their behavior. Because these changes can be powerful and long-lasting, many people relapse after long periods of sobriety.

One of the biggest challenges people face when a loved one struggles with addiction is walking the line between helping vs. enabling. Unfortunately, many people, especially children of addicted parents, find themselves stuck in a pattern of enabling a family member with a substance abuse problem.

Unfortunately, what starts as “helping” can quickly become enabling when abuse is present. If you’re curious if you fall into this category, consider if you find yourself making excuses for your loved ones to justify their behavior. Or if you find yourself ignoring unacceptable behavior, taking on responsibilities for them, lying to cover up their mistakes, assigning blame to others instead of the person with the addiction, and most commonly putting aside your needs for theirs. These behaviors usually start as offering grace to someone and quickly enable bad behavior. When these patterns continue, relationships become unhealthy. But there is hope.

It Isn’t Your Fault

First and foremost, it’s essential to realize that addiction happens even in good families and is a medical condition that a medical team can treat, and it is not your fault. If someone in your life is misusing drugs or alcohol, the best first step is to seek help from a trusted source. Counselors are an excellent resource for this and can help you articulate to the person you care about how their behavior is affecting you and provide you with the resources you need to provide them with the follow up steps when they are ready to start their healing journey.

Counseling Is For Everyone

When addiction is present in a family, each member is affected. Unfortunately, many quickly assume that only the person struggling with addiction needs help. The truth is everyone whose life is affected by addiction can benefit from counseling. Spouses, siblings, and children can all deal with the adverse effects of addiction and have their day-to-day lives disrupted.

That’s why family counseling can be such a powerful tool for healing. Having a place to speak about your lived experience in a safe environment can benefit the healing process. For the person struggling with addiction, a solid show of support from their family and a desire to help them on their path to healing can be empowering in the early days, which are so critical.

Family counseling sessions can be helpful to each member of the family unit, but individual support is also essential. Collective Counseling Solutions has a broad network of specialists all across the country trained and ready to help you in your time of need. They can facilitate addiction counseling, family counseling, and one on one therapy for each member of the family.

Many families start counseling while their loved one is in a treatment facility for addiction. This is a significant step to help families understand their addicted family member’s struggles and be better prepared to help them integrate back into their life after treatment. Family counseling gives each family member an advocate to help them process the complex emotions and circumstances tied to addiction. If you’re ready to start your journey to healing, we’re here to help.

Next Steps

We take your mental health seriously and don’t want anyone to suffer when help is available. Our talented team can point you to resources such as one-on-one counseling, family or group therapy, support groups, and treatment facilities. Addiction can destroy a family, but medical treatment and counseling are the things that can knit it back together. Loving someone who struggles with addiction can be challenging, but you don’t have to walk this path alone.