Seeing a loved one in active addiction is difficult. We want to do everything in our power to help get them back to a healthier place but it can be hard to know how to help them in the most effective manner; even then they might not want help. Some individuals who abuse drugs know they need help but lack the resources to carry it through. Others are completely unreceptive to getting better. What should you do in this instance?
Why might they feel this way?
First and foremost they may be in denial of their addiction. A discussion with your loved one may be enough to shine some light onto their actions. Another approach may be to see a physician or psychiatrist to medically diagnose the addiction – it could resonate coming from an unbiased professional party. Sometimes the addiction doesn’t reverberate until they have a self-realization – typically during a low-point.
Another possibility may be they are ashamed of their use. This can tie into denial as people may not want to admit it to others or themselves out of embarrassment. While the stigma of addiction has lessened in recent years, it still carries very heavy. It is important for these individuals to know addiction is not their fault and maybe more importantly; there is help and they can become their old selves again. Comforting and understanding dialogue between the user and someone they love and trust can be enough for them to feel comfortable and seek help.
It may sound obvious but some people are not ready to get help. Addiction slowly deteriorates a person’s life inch by inch day after day. At the beginning of the addiction stage, the consequences of a person’s actions are manageable – sacrificing food money and moments friends doesn’t feel all that destructive. Over time these consequences become more and more severe – like losing a job, house, or even a family. It is at this point that a person in active addiction will hit what is known as “rock bottom”, or the point at which they realize the severity of their actions and their need for help. Rock bottom can be different levels for different people; for some, it could be the loss of a friend, where for others it might not be until they can’t find the means to score again and enter a depressive withdrawal.
It is important to continue to show support and love for them during these stages. Love is different than enabling. Enabling protects the addict from the natural consequences of his behavior; love is emotional support. Love shows an individual they matter because someone cares for them. You, being a support line, can be the helping hand needed when they finally decide for themselves that they need help.
How to Help Your Loved One Before “Rock Bottom”
In a perfect world, it would be best to be proactive and give them the help they need today instead of waiting and watching them go through tough times. A good first step would be attempting to build a productive dialogue. Ask them how they feel and if you can help them in any way. Be supportive and caring rather than critical and judgmental. While it may be difficult to hold back, too often family and friends push their addicted loved ones away when they escalate these moments. The only way to build meaningful discussions is to keep calm and composed, even when the person in active abuse does not. Easier said than done.
Addiction is a self-debilitating disease that often leaves those affected hopeless and depressed. Most people are ashamed of their actions which can make it harder for them to talk about it. Come from a place of love and empathy when talking about your feelings. Saying things like “I love you no matter what. I want the best for you,” can display feelings of trust and understanding.
If these discussions last for a time and the individual is still resistant to getting help for themselves, it may be beneficial to call an interventionist. An interventionist is experienced in handling these situations to continue the dialogue in a positive and productive manner. The goal is for the person in active addiction to see how many people care about him or her and how much their addiction is not only affecting their lives but everyone around them.
Hopefully, in the end, the person in active addiction will come to terms with their actions and admit they are sick and need help. If neither of these techniques work, do not force them into treatment. Treatment for addiction will only work if the people in the program are ready to be helped. In fact, adding someone who does not want help to a program can negatively impact the progress of everyone else in the program. People, especially those who abuse drugs, can be astonishingly persistent in their actions. No matter how many logical reasoning you and everyone else may have, chances are you will not move that stick in the mud.
If you feel as though you have exhausted all expenses and you think forcing someone into treatment is better than doing nothing – no one could blame you. The process is long and exhausting, but forcing someone into treatment will only waste time and money. The only option is to wait until they are ready – I promise you, if you continue to be there for them showing love and support throughout the way, that day will come eventually, just maybe not as fast as you may like. Be Patient.