It is that time of year again, where we bake cookies, put up the Christmas tree, and host holiday parties for our families and friends. The holiday season is meant to be a festive time to enjoy with those we love, and reflect on all the wonderful memories from the past year.
But, if you love someone who is addicted to drugs and alcohol, the holiday season may actually be a dreaded time. Rather than joining in on festivities, you find yourself worried if your loved one will make a scene at dinner, or worse; you fear they won’t come home tonight.
Loving someone who struggles with substance abuse is painful and confusing, no matter the time of year. You feel completely out of control and helpless, wondering what the right thing to do is. These feelings are completely normal and you should know that you are not alone.
The question remains. How do know if someone you love is struggling with substance abuse and how do you help them? And, how do you help yourself?
Educate Yourself On The Warning Signs Of Substance Abuse
Before helping your loved one, you must first know the warning signs of substance abuse. While there are some signs and symptoms that vary from one substance to another, there are several red flags that are universal. If your loved one or friend is exhibiting any of these behaviors or physical symptoms, there may be cause for concern.
- They suddenly have financial issues and/or a lack of money
- They become withdrawn from family, friends, or social situations entirely
- Stop taking care of responsibilities i.e. paying bills, taking care of themselves or family, going to work, school, etc.
- They don’t hold true to their word. An example would be if they promised to do something, but forget to do it.
- Mood swings
- Eating & sleeping behaviors change
- They become more secretive, or just lie in general
At any point in time, it is okay to begin educating yourself. Whether you seek out the advice of a professional, or help from someone you met at a support group, it is okay to ask questions. Understanding and being able to recognize the signs of substance abuse, is especially important today. It could mean life or death.
Keep An Open Mind
Although it may be difficult at first, keeping an open mind is imperative. No one ever plans to become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, and your loved one is surely no exception. More than likely, they feel ashamed and embarrassed of their current decisions and behaviors, and judging them could only make matters worse. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to the disease of addiction, so we understand that open-mindedness may not be an easy task. But, if your loved one feels judged by their own family, it will be extremely difficult for them to open up to anyone else.
Talk Through It
Remember to be compassionate and understanding when speaking with your loved one. Allow them to speak openly and honestly, as you listen without contention. By doing so, they will begin to feel more comfortable speaking about their problems, which will help you both to find a solution. Remember to make it known that you care and that your only intention is to help.
Know The Difference Between Enabling & Helping
Substance abuse can be very tricky, especially when it comes to our family and friends. The lines can easily get blurred, and we can easily cross over from helping to enabling. It is important to know the difference, so you can truly help them in the long run.
It can be especially difficult to draw lines and create boundaries with loved ones, but it is must! It may seem that you are helping in some instances, but you could actually be doing more harm than good. Many times we hear family members say things like, “I cannot kick them out; they’re family,” or “I give them money, so they do not rob and steal from others.”
It is crucial to create boundaries and/or consequences, and stick to them. When an addict doesn’t have consequences for their actions, they lack incentive to get help. Why stop if they do not have to?
Seek The Help Of A Professional
There is no shame in asking for help. Seek out the help of an addictions professional, even if it is just to ask for advice. They could certainly offer insight into the disease of addiction, and provide you with suggestions on the best way to handle your specific situation. They may even recommend staging an intervention and the best way to do so.
Know That Helping Yourself Does Not Mean You Are Selfish
It is important to seek help for your loved one, but it is also important to help yourself. Taking care of yourself, especially during such a stressful time, is necessary. You may want to consider finding a support group or speaking to a therapist who specializes in substance abuse within the family. If you are not taking care of yourself, both mentally and spiritually, you will be no good to anyone else.
Sometimes it is easy to get sucked into the lie that has become the addict’s life. Family members and friends will often lie for the addict, making up stories to cover up their behaviors. It may even go as far as making excuses for them, to justify their behaviors. In this instance, the lines can get blurred as well. After years of “covering” for them, it can be difficult to differentiate the true from the false; you begin believing the lie as well.
It is important to get back to reality and face the issue of substance abuse head-on. Living in a fantasy world will help no one, especially not the addict. Realize and accept that they have a problem, so you can better help them and help yourself.
And in the end, remember the 3 C’s. You did not cause their substance abuse, you cannot control them, and you definitely cannot cure it. When you accept this reality, you begin to live in the solution, and not the problem.
Don’t Wait Until It Is Too Late
The last thing you want is to live in regret. As the overdose crisis continues to live on, we must do the difficult things, and ask the difficult questions. If you suspect that your loved one is struggling with substance abuse, seek out professional help…for both of you. You do not want to wake up one day and think to yourself, “If only I stepped in sooner.”
Remember, there is nothing to be ashamed about. Substance abuse affects people from all walks of life. Maybe you thought this could never happen to you, or your family, but the disease of addiction does not discriminate. The good news is that there is a solution; there is a way out of this nightmare. Recovery and abstinence can offer your loved one the opportunity to experience a life they were always meant to have. Do not give up hope!
Contact Clearbrook Today
If you or someone you love is currently caught in the grips of addiction, help is available.
For 45 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been providing effective treatment solutions to those struggling with alcoholism and chemical dependency. We can offer you or your loved one the opportunity to begin your journey to wellness in a safe and peaceful environment.
And, while they are receiving the necessary treatment for their addiction, you can take part in our Family Educational Program, where you will receive support and educational services surrounding the disease of addiction.
If you are ready to change your life, please contact our Admissions Specialists today.