Print Posted on 08/03/2017 in Addiction

How To Help Your Loved One Suffering with a Drug and/or Alcohol Problem (Other than "Tough Love" which Does Not Work)...

How To Help Your Loved One Suffering with a Drug and/or Alcohol Problem (Other than

Education, Awareness, and Prevention, will empower you to help your loved one who suffers from a drug or alcohol problem. Knowledge is power! It is important is to encourage the recovery method that your loved one has chosen for him or herself, regardless of your own beliefs, without enabling old addictive behaviors. It is also very important to take care of yourself first, because otherwise, you won’t be able to help others. If they are really trying to get better, even if it’s not complete abstinence, be as supportive and encouraging as you can. You need to be able to set limits, but must also have realistic expectations.

There are many answers, many paths, and many ways to help your loved one change his relationship to substances. The answer will depend on the dynamics of the family as a whole and your child (loved one, friend, co-worker), as a unique individual. It will depend on what sorts of other problems he has, how long the behavior has been going on, his age, who his friends are and what they think about substances, and about a hundred other things. One size does not fit all!

How can I help a loved one?

  • Learn about AMA/APA Techniques and the do's and don’ts should your loved one go into treatment.
  • Learn about aftercare and where those with long-term recovery have found the greatest success.
  • Don’t blame yourself. That doesn’t do anyone in the family any good.
  • Don’t take responsibility for making your loved one well. Encourage him or her to get professional medical help for their co-occurring disorder.
  • Encourage healthy living habits in the home, don’t tolerate addictive behaviors.
  • Approach the person to talk about getting help when you are calm, and when s/he seems relatively sober/clean and calm. Don’t threaten to call the police or put the person in the hospital unless you mean it and are prepared to follow through.
  • Don’t make it easier for your loved one to continue self-destructive behavior. Don’t loan money if you know it will be used to buy drugs or alcohol. Don’t lie to others to cover up your loved one’s drinking or drug use.
  • Don’t preach or lecture. Talk to the person about specific things that have happened because of his or her substance abuse and untreated mood disorder that are visible and obvious. For example, s/he may have health, work, family or money problems.
  • Don’t use guilt to motivate the person to get help.
  • Realize that your loved one’s mental illnesses and/or substance abuse can affect his or her thoughts and views. Know that with good treatment, hopeless and self-defeating thoughts and attitudes can be overcome.
  • Do your best to give support and be patient.
  • Allow your loved one to spend the time s/he needs with support groups and treatment as needed.
  • Get support for yourself, whether or not your loved one gets help. Join a support group for friends and family. Seek professional help if you need it.
  • Never give up hope.

 As a family member, loved one or friend you must be a shining example of compassion, caring, and understanding and at the same time stand strong in your conviction of sending a positive message of what a life in recovery can bring to someone who is stuck in the cramping confines of addiction. Always remember never be an enabler as this is the most destructive thing you can do. Stand firm on your ground and do not allow your emotional attachment to gain the upper hand and take over from your main objective of helping and saving your loved ones life.

With the freedom of choice today there are many options available, which will give you many reasons to feel optimistic about helping someone. If they are refusing to take any action whatsoever to deal with their addiction, you may need to distance yourself from them or take other measures you feel comfortable with. Never forget enabling is never the answer. Stand firm and strong in your conviction to yourself, as it is important for you to stay healthy mentally and emotionally.

However, if they are honestly trying to get help and are moving forward, even if it means they have relapsed, or have just cut down and are not completely abstinent at the time, it is in the best interest to be as supportive and encouraging as you can as negative talk is never effective and only pushes a person further away. Whatever path your loved one decides to take, you must allow them to choose for themselves, as what is good for you or others may not be good for them. Recovery is about seeking out a new life. What works best for one does not necessarily mean it will work for someone else. The cookie cutter approach is not the answer for everyone.

Never forget as a parent/loved one, the importance of your own self-care and taking care of your health and needs, so you have the strength to be patient, understanding and not lose control in a situation that is stressful. Love is what we are, Love cures all.

Melanie Solomon

Author of Breakthrough Guide, "AA Not the Only Way" (2nd Edition)