Addiction Information for Friends and Family
Watching a loved one battle with addiction is difficult. You can take solace, in knowing that there is something you can do to help. For patients who are recovering from substance abuse disorders, the presence of friends and family will help a lot with their long term sobriety goals. You can help your loved one beyond just by providing moral support and encouragement. If you are willing to be present for your loved one through the trials and tribulations of recovery, you can be with some of the following activities:
Accompany your loved one to support group meetings
- Seek out other support group meetings for others like you who are supporting a loved one in recovery
- Do the research and get educated about the disease of addiction
- Educate others – share your knowledge of addiction with family and friends
- Create a stable environment for your loved one that will encourage their sobriety
- Attend therapy sessions that focus on communication and setting boundaries
- Inventory your actions – determine if any of your behaviors are enabling your loved one’s addictive habit
Addiction is a Family Disease
Addiction affects more than just the person addicted. It is called a “family disease because its effects stem from the individual who is abusing it. Although the addicted person is the only one abusing drugs or alcohol, addiction affects all members of a family. Not always but it’s usually a sign of dysfunction in that individual’s home life, personal relationships, or social network. Drug rehab often brings up troubling issues in a family’s life, such as relationship conflicts, substance abuse, domestic abuse, or past traumas. It’s not going to be easy or comfortable to go through this process but the family must heal together to ensure long-term recovery.
Spotting The Signs Of Addiction
Several common physical signs of substance abuse are as follows:
- Glassy or red eyes
- Dilated pupils
- Pale complexion
- Tremors or shakes
- Poor motor coordination
- Change in eating habits
- Change in sleeping patterns
- Marks or bruises from a needle
- Excessive sweating
- Lack of personal hygiene
Beyond physical symptoms, below are some common emotional and social indicators of addiction:
- Mood swings
- Isolation from other financial issues (constantly needing to borrow or stealing money
- Secretive behavior
- Loss of interest in favorite activities/hobbies
- Change in style and propriety of dress
- Problems at work or in school
- Relationship/marriage problem
Although these signs are common, they do not necessarily indicate that your loved one has issues with substance abuse. With that said, a lot of individuals suffering from the disease of addiction also find themselves struggling with their mental health – this is known as having co-occurring disorders. If you are concerned about seeing these symptoms in your loved one, you may still be reluctant to confront them; however, it is important to take care of those you love regardless of their struggle.
Support vs. Enabling
Among families, a common contributor to addictive behaviors is codependency. This is when an individual enables their loved one’s addictions to either gain power over their loved one, or does so in an effort to receive love and approval from their loved one. Often, because this behavior can occur beneath the surface, it is difficult to discern between whether someone is showing actual support for their loved one or if they are simply perpetuating codependent behavior. Frequently, the individual who is enabling their loved one won’t necessarily realize that they are doing so, which is why understanding the difference between support and codependency is so important. The following are some differences to help you determine if you what you are doing is being supportive of your loved one or if you are actually enabling them:
- Motives – While a supportive partner is one who wants to help their loved one achieve sobriety, an enabling partner will have the ulterior motive to want to keep their loved one sick for the loved one to continue needing their partner’s help. A supportive partner will go to meetings, counseling, and similar workshops or groups with their loved ones. They will never abide or participate in their loved one’s addictive tendencies. In contrast, a codependent partner will attempt to sweep their loved one’s addiction under the rug, lying or loaning them money, and even going so far as using drugs with their loved ones under the pretense of supervising them.
- Attachment – As far as attachment is concerned, a supportive individual, though looking out for their loved one’s well-being, will not sacrifice themselves to help their loved one who is suffering from addiction. This is in opposition to a codependent individual, who will give everything they have – ie: time, money, and emotional support – to help their loved one through their struggle with substance abuse. This is unhealthy and can get to the point where the codependent individual has given so much of themselves to help their addicted partner, which causes them to suffer from their own mental and emotional issues.
- Boundaries – It is especially important to establish clear and unyielding boundaries when helping someone who is going through issues with substance abuse. A supportive individual will help their loved one in need, but only to the point that it does not cross a reasonably set boundary. The supportive individual will not tolerate threatening behavior or inappropriate actions taken by their loved one under any circumstances. Those who are codependent will not have any boundaries whatsoever, or, if they do, their boundaries are easily crossed and disregarded, leading to trouble for the codependent.
Much like their partners going through issues of substance abuse, codependents will require therapy and support in able to heal from the emotional trials that they have experienced from enabled their loved one’s addiction. Al-Anon groups are a wonderful way for family members and close friends to find others with whom they can identify to get the help that they need to fully support (and not enable) their partners who are battling the disease of addiction.
You might be feeling at odds with your emotions when it comes to caring for a loved one who is suffering from the disease of addiction. Guilt, anxiety, and fear are often to be felt in such instances. To help you process your own emotions while helping a loved one through a difficult time, we have provided a few resources below:
- 12-Step Groups – The steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other similar groups are for more than just those who are in recovery. The steps can be applied to a lot of situations in life and can be especially helpful for the friends and family of addicted loved ones. Al-Anon, Alateen, Codependents Anonymous, and Families Anonymous are all dedicated to helping the loved ones of addicts and alcoholics to work through what they have experienced having been affected by the disease of addiction. If you look at your local resources, you are likely to find at least one regular meeting that applies to you.
- National Association For Children Of Alcoholics (NACoA) – This is a non-profit organization that helps children of alcohol-dependent parents. Their goal is to ensure that the children of alcoholics are given the help and support they need in order to grow up in a healthy and safe environment.
- National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) – This government agency presents their research on substance abuse to the public in accessible ways to help share a better understanding of the disease of addiction. NIDA offers a wide range of online resources about addiction, treatment, and recovery.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – This is another organization that researches to educate the public about issues of substance abuse and mental illness. There are a variety of substance abuse-related resources available through the SAMHSA This is another organization that researches to educate the public about issues of substance abuse and mental illness. There are a variety of substance abuse-related resources available through the SAMHSA website.
There are also many resources to be found in your local community. Mental health centers, spiritual groups, volunteer organizations, and more will help you to connect with others who have had similar experiences or are in similar situations as yourself.
At Circle of Hope, we believe that family and friends are an important part of the healing process for our clients. Our experienced team of caring professionals is ready to assist you in getting your loved one the help they need and providing you with resources to help yourself as well. If you have a loved one who is currently suffering from the disease of addiction, call us now for information about our advanced treatment programs.