Help For Addiction
Supporting a loved one who lives with an addiction is a heartbreaking experience for many. Witnessing the physical and psychological deterioration of someone you care about comes with a huge range of emotions and unsettling events.
Recovery isn’t as simple as stopping the habit of using. There are, however, a variety of ways you can access help for addiction to support someone you care about.
How can you tell if a person has an addiction?
There are many signals that you’ll pick up on if someone you care about has an addiction. There will be both physical signs and behavioural changes.
Physical symptoms of an addiction
Physical symptoms start to become obvious, especially as the addiction develops over time. The person you care about might present the following symptoms:
- Appearing drowsy and lethargic
- Appearing pale, gaunt, or blotchy in the face
- Having a “vacant” look in their eyes
- Slurred speech
- Saying things that don’t make sense
- Memory impairment
- Looking unkempt
- Losing or gaining weight
- Bloodshot eyes
How addiction can affect a person’s behaviour
When problematic drug or alcohol use begins, it’s only a matter of time before this affects a person’s behaviour. Symptoms can include the following:
- Losing interest in usual activities and hobbies
- Being unmotivated
- Mood swings and irritability
- Problems arising with friends and family members
- Issues developing at work
- Spending time with a new set of friends
- Seeming secretive
- Lying and stealing
The challenges of supporting someone with an addiction
Unfortunately, due to how addiction is commonly viewed in society, people who live with substance misuse issues can find it difficult to come to terms with and admit. This often creates a knock-on effect for the family. A family might be totally ready and willing to support their loved one to overcome the addiction, but if the person with the addiction problem isn’t ready to quit, difficulties often arise.
Barriers to admitting addiction include:
1. The stigma/shame attached to addiction
Sadly, in many Westernised societies there is a shame and stigma attached to addiction. This is certainly the case in the UK.
It’s incredibly important to acknowledge that addiction is a disease. By the time it’s advanced, people are truly suffering from an illness.
An illness that can be treated
2. Denial of an addiction
For many people addicted to substances, admitting there is a problem is usually the first hurdle. Sometimes, a person might believe they have control over their habits. They might not see the damage the drugs or alcohol are creating. This can be a very frustrating time for a family.
It’s helpful at this point not to enable a person’s behaviour and, as hard as it might be, let them face the consequences of their choices.
3. Defensiveness in relation to the addiction
When a person is living with an addiction and is questioned about it, it’s easy for their response to be defensive. This can naturally turn into anger. It’s especially common when a person hasn’t admitted the problem to themselves.
When caring for someone with an addiction, careful communication is critical.
4. Avoiding the problem and avoiding support
Addiction is very often a coping mechanism. When a person feels like they are being “nagged” or accused, or watched all the time, this can make them avoid you. It can also trigger them to turn to the substance of choice again.
How you can help someone you love who has an addiction
Now we discuss how you can help someone you love who has an addiction
1. Think about coping mechanisms
Every person has coping mechanisms to face difficult situations. One person who feels stressed after an argument might go to the gym and hit a punch bag, another might go for a walk to clear their head, still, another might have a glass of wine or a joint.
The majority of people with addictions have experienced uncomfortable and sometimes deeply distressing events. Sadly, their choice of coping has become a problem itself.
This can be useful for families and friends to remember when speaking to their loved one.
2. Accept that you can’t control your loved one
As heartbreaking as it is to witness your loved one’s physical and mental health deteriorate, you must accept that you can’t control them. It can be incredibly tempting to try to do so, but when a person is addicted and wants to drink or use drugs they will find a way of doing so.
If and when a person decides they want to recover, they will usually come to this decision on their own. Being forced, bribed, or nagged into treatment rarely works.
3. Communicate openly
This is one of the most important parts of supporting someone with an addiction. Maintaining a compassionate and open dialogue makes a huge difference. In fact, a supportive relationship can be one of the biggest factors in helping a person to recover.
Some tips to aid healthy communication include:
- Ask what you can do to support them (but don’t enable them).
- Give the person you care for space to talk and listen. Don’t interrupt.
- Don’t make the conversation about you, it’s not.
- The person might say things about you that are hard to hear. It’s important to just listen. Being defensive isn’t helpful
- As hard as it can be, think before you speak and try not to respond from an emotional space.
What else can you do?
- Develop and stick to boundaries. This protects against enabling too (for instance, giving money doesn’t help the addiction)
- Encourage honesty between the two of you
- Be open and compassionate. Also accept that they might want privacy, especially if they do begin treatment
- Be non-judgemental. Avoid guilt-tripping, shame, and blame
- Support healthy activities. Invite them to activities where they might feel comfortable – a family BBQ, a walk in the park.
Support for yourself
Caring for someone with an addiction takes its toll. This is why looking after yourself is very important. There are support groups in your local area that you can contact. These support groups aim to provide emotional support and practical ideas around how you manage your side of the relationship with the person who has an addiction.
You can contact OK Rehab to find out more about these groups.
Where to get help
Throughout the UK there are treatment programmes. Both inpatient and outpatient services are available. Where some people might want to stay for a length of time at a clinic, others might prefer a more casual approach.This will largely depend on the severity of the addiction.
When entering treatment, people undergo physical, psychological and alternative types of therapy and support.
Rehab clinics provide an excellent opportunity for an immersive approach to treatment. This is extremely beneficial where severe addictions exist.
You can contact our team of advisors at OK Rehab to find out more about your local options.
1. Help for a friend
Perhaps you’ve noticed symptoms that a friend might be addicted to a substance. It can be difficult to know how to broach the situation, especially if you’re worried about damaging your friendship. There are things you can do to support your friend effectively. Click here to find out more.
2. Help for a loved one
Caring for a loved one who is addicted to drink or drugs brings a whole host of emotional issues. It’s a complex situation to manage. There is support available for your loved one. To understand more about how to respond and what to do, find out here.
3. Help for a patient
Many professionals work with patients who have a variety of ailments. You might suspect a patient has an addiction, or it could be very clear. While you might want to spend more time treating a patient, the majority of medical staff are extremely busy.
OK Rehab provides information to medical professionals. We’re experts in treatments and centres throughout the UK and can advise on this. Learn more here.
4. Help for an employee
If you’re concerned that you have a member of staff with an addiction, it’s essential to follow work processes and policies. You can also speak with our team for guidance on how to approach the member of staff.
To get advice on how to manage a situation with an employee, click here.
5. Help for those who are LGBTQ
Statistics reveal that substance misuse is higher in the LGBTQ community than for heterosexual people. There are various underlying factors associated with this. Talking to someone who has compassion and understanding of LGBTQ issues and addiction can make all the difference.
If you’re a person in the LGBTQ community, then there are services you can access to support you towards a life of sobriety. Find out more here.
6. Help for myself
Perhaps you’re struggling to understand how your alcohol or drug use has got to the point it has now. You might feel overwhelmed by realising this. To find out more about the symptoms of addiction and to discover where you can get treatment, click here.
7. Help for veterans
For those who have served in the Armed Forces, substance misuse can be common. Understandably, it is often linked to PTSD. There are many therapies to support both mental health and addiction recovery. Get more information here.
8. Help for men
Addiction is more likely to occur in men than women. There are a whole set of barriers that might make accessing treatment feel difficult. Across the UK, there are men-only treatment centres available. This might feel more appropriate to your needs. Click here to find out more.
9. Help for women
Severe addiction in women is often linked to extremely traumatic experiences in the past. For women with addictions, domestic violence and sexual abuse is more likely to have taken place. With this in mind, it’s important that women-only facilities exist. You can find out about them here.
10. Help for teens
Teenagers in the UK are experimenting with drugs and alcohol every day. 10% have even tried cocaine and ketamine. Treatment is different for young people because the reasons for and how they use drink or drugs is usually very different to an adult. Discover what treatments are available here.