This article and connected links are for those supporting a loved one struggling with addiction. You have no doubt witnessed their self-destructive behaviour and their gradual decline. You see their excessive drug or alcohol use extending far beyond social norms. In many instances, you may feel powerless to do anything about it.
What typically occurs when you attempt to intervene and suggest they seek help? You most likely get an earful of comments like, “It’s none of your business” or “I don’t have a problem, don’t worry,” among other variations. Moreover, we often hear that families cannot do anything unless the abuser wants help or has hit rock bottom. While this notion holds some truth, it isn’t the complete picture.
When navigating the challenges of supporting a loved one struggling with addiction, family members have various options to consider. Addressing the individual’s behaviour can take different forms, and the extent of action often hinges on the severity of misuse and the specific substance involved.
Assisting someone begins with a certain level of knowledge, particularly understanding the “when” and “how” factors. We’ve compiled a series on drug and alcohol intervention to help friends and family members understand when and how to do so. You can access these articles in the Intervention Series Menu or read on.
Regularly using illicit drugs, whether on a daily basis or binges, has a ripple effect that impacts the individual and those in their social circle. Initially, a person may fail to recognize the harm in their actions, believing that occasional consumption of substances like cocaine, marijuana, or alcohol is harmless. And in most cases, it is. However, this casual use can escalate into a more frequent habit.
As a person continues to use drugs or alcohol, their tolerance builds, necessitating higher doses to achieve the desired effects. This escalating pattern can push an individual closer to the clutches of addiction. This new condition brings about a host of conflicts and disturbances among the people connected to the individual misusing substances.
The individual’s consumption noticeably alters their behaviour, prompting concerns from family and friends. The user will likely become increasingly secretive and occasionally withdraw from social interactions. Their life becomes more unpredictable and bewildering. Eventually, this cascade of issues leads to fractured relationships, turmoil within families, disruptions at work, and more.
Siblings see that all the attention is on the substance misuser. The parents are distracted at work because they know their son is doing something destructive. They fear that sooner or later, they will need to bail him out or visit him in the ER, or worse. Maybe school grades start to slip, and in other circumstances, the boss is concerned about accidents or too many “no-shows” at work. Good long-time friends stay away. The person now finds themselves alone or hangs with a “new crowd.”
Most of us attempt to reason with the person, encouraging them to seek help, but they often remain unresponsive. You may find yourself wondering why they can’t simply quit. Deep down, you understand that it’s not that straightforward, even if you believe they should be able to stop.
The other avenue to overcome when supporting a loved one struggling with addiction is best applied when all attempts have failed. In many cases, the inability to offer assistance is not due to your limitations but rather the person’s resistance to accepting it. They find it difficult to accept help for whatever reason there is.
When all else fails, one option is to enlist the assistance of a drug or alcohol interventionist to facilitate a family intervention. However, even if this endeavour proves unsuccessful, one final step remains: withdrawing all financial and emotional support. It’s essential to include a stipulation that contact remains an option for the misuser if they decide to seek help.
While it may initially appear unsympathetic, sometimes it’s the most effective approach to help the individual gain clarity. At first glance, it may come across as unfeeling. Still, in reality, addiction can potentially impact the entire family, both financially and emotionally. It is another reason why taking such measures can be necessary.
The above is not always as simple as it looks. Each case has its own set of circumstances and particular issues to overcome. You can contact an experienced referral and consultation counsellor for assistance. They are there to help guide you and can bring hope and potential solutions when supporting a loved one struggling with addiction. There are ways to stay above it all.