Helping a loved one 

It can be emotionally devastating to watch someone you love experience addiction.

Here is how to show your loved one support while protecting your own mental health. 

Despite the epidemic scope of drug addiction in this country, the tell tale signs can go largely unnoticed by people that could otherwise help if they knew their loved one had a problem. While family or friends may not always be tuned in to clinical symptoms of addiction, there are some warning signs that are a lot easier to see. They include:

Sudden or drastic changes in behaviour. For example, someone who has always been punctual and reliable is now showing up late for events, missing work or disappearing for long periods of time.

Mood swings. They may look depressed or lethargic one day and euphoric the next. They might also be more argumentative and have less patients than normal.

Financial difficulty or attempts to conceal spending. Addiction thrives in secrecy and often makes people do things they would never do to sustain their habit. The person you have always known to be honest and principled may, due to their addiction, lie, borrow, steal to continue supporting their habit to keep you from noticing. 

Getting someone you care about into treatment isn’t always that easy while the issues might be painfully obvious to those around them, it is very common for the individual to minimise the severity of their addiction and try to hold onto whatever sense of control they still have over the situation. They might be afraid of change, hesitate or try something new, or opposed to the idea of receiving treatment at all.

Here are a few tips to encourage someone to seek professional help:

Act quickly, the more time passes the harder it is to convince someone to seek help. 
Don’t go it alone, enlist the help of a professional who is experienced in treatment and interventions.
Stay involved. A common question I am asked by family members is “how can I help”. Families often feel helpless and frustrated in the face of addiction. Family members tend to go between the extremes of being overly involved or pulling away altogether in order to deal with their own emotions. 

My answer is to do neither. I would recommend families stay involved but importantly have their program of recovery. By this I mean, they may attend individual or family counselling to work through any emotional issues they may be having about the addiction, normal daily functioning, relationship and children. Counselling can teach family members how to be a supportive figure in the individual’s recovery rather than a co-dependant one. 

Remember that recovery is a process. The addiction did not start over night and recovery will not be immediate either. There will be bumps in the road. This is to be expected, as the chronic nature of addiction, for there to be set backs and relapses. It may seem at times as if the situation is hopeless. But if you continue to stay firm in your resolution to be a positive support and take care of your own mental health and wellbeing then your loved one will have a much greater chance of doing the same.