It is estimated that more than 23 million people in the United States, alone, struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol. While this number seems shocking, it’s important to know that there are people in our community and in our neighborhoods that struggle with addiction and, if you know of someone who is, they are not alone. At Community Access Network, we’re here to help. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, the skilled and compassionate staff at the community health center can help you identify the resources necessary to discover the path to recovery. Our medical and behavioral health providers are prepared to assess your needs and assist in creating a plan with resource knowledge, access to referrals and concern for healthy outcomes.
However, there are steps you can take, too. Here’s what you can do to help someone with addiction:
Step One: Get Educated
Unless you’ve struggled with addiction, or are a trained professional, you won’t ever fully understand what it means to be addicted to a substance—and that’s okay. However, you can learn about the signs of addiction, the recovery process for specific addictions and what could cause a loved one to relapse.
Behavioral Signs of Addiction
- Missing work/school
- Work/school problems
- Missing important engagements
- Isolating/secretive about activities
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Legal problems
- Relationship/marital problems
- Financial problems
- Conversations dominated by using or drug/alcohol related topics
Emotional Signs of Addiction
- Inability to deal with stress
- Loss of interest in activities/people that used to be part of their lives
- Confused easily
- Offering alibis, excuses, justifications or other explanations for their using behavior
- Admitting to the problem, but not admitting to the seriousness of it
- Placing blame for the behavior on someone else
- Changing the subject to avoid the topic
Physical Signs of Addiction
- Over-active or under-active
- Repetitive speech patterns
- Dilated pupils, red eyes
- Excessive sniffing and runny nose
- Looking pale or undernourished
- Clothes that don’t fit the same
- Weight loss
- Change in eating habits
- Unusual odors or body odor
Step Two: Take Care of Yourself
When we’re close to someone who has an addiction, it can be easy to take on their pain as our own or even assume responsibility for their addiction. The important thing for you to do is try to take care of yourself first and foremost. Remember, you cannot control the other person, but you can control yourself. Take time for yourself, see a mental health professional or even just go for a walk every day to get some peace. Whatever that looks like for you, it’s important to set boundaries to keep yourself healthy.
Step Three: Talk About It
This doesn’t mean telling everyone your loved one’s business—it means finding one person or a small group of people who you can trust to talk about what you’re dealing with. This could be a support group like Al-Anon, a church group, close friends or even a mental health professional. Whatever you’re comfortable with, the goal is to communicate what you’re feeling, how the addiction is impacting you and what help and support you need.
What You Can’t Do to Help Someone with Addiction
Of course, there are things that we can’t do to help someone with addiction, Remember how we said earlier that we can’t control the other person, but we can control ourselves?
We Can’t: Make Them Quit
As much as we’d like to, we can’t make someone with an addiction quit. It’s important to remember that their addiction is a disease. You wouldn’t tell someone with cancer to just stop having cancer, or quit cancer. The same idea applies with addiction.
You can stage an intervention or help someone see that their addiction truly is a problem, but you can’t make them quit. Even in states that allow involuntary treatment (and Virginia is one of them), you can’t make them stay sober once they’re out of treatment.
We Can’t: Do the Recovery Work for Them
Recovery is a process and it’s sometimes painful for us to see our loved ones go through it. There is more than the physical detox. There’s also the emotional work involved with recovery. Even if you see signs of someone relapsing, you can’t always do something about it. Addiction hijacks the brain and eliminates the logic that would normally help someone make healthier decisions.
We Can’t: Accept Behavior that Crosses Our Boundaries
The most important thing to understand when someone you know has an addiction is this: You can set the boundaries of the relationship. By setting boundaries, you can avoid enabling their behavior and you can help take care of yourself.
Boundaries can be simple. For example, you can say that the person has to be clean or sober if they’re in your home. If the boundary is broken, there should be a consequence and, as painful as that may be, that consequence must be carried out. For some, experiencing consequences is the only way they’ll recognize the seriousness of the problem and get help.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a drug or alcohol related addiction, we’re here to help. Our providers will compassionately and discreetly help you find the help you need.