Getting help for a loved one who is addicted to drugs is no small task. First and foremost, you need to know what to expect when you first approach your loved one about getting help. They are likely going to react in a fairly negative way.
Step One: Figure out what kind of drug your loved one is using.
Different drugs affect users in different ways. This is important and we’re going to be talking a lot more about it in an article later in the week. For now, it’s just important to make sure you understand how important it is to know what you’re dealing with. If your loved one is using a highly addictive drug like methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine or prescription medications, there will be withdrawal symptoms that will need to be addressed. We’ll talk more about this in step four.
Step Two: Learn about the drug.
Knowing what kind of drug your loved one is abusing allows you the chance to get to know more about the drug. Learn how the drug affects users. You may be able to identify earning warning signs of drug abuse that you may have missed in the early stages of your loved one’s addiction which can give you an idea of how long they’ve been abusing the drug. Getting a general time from for the drug use can help you figure out how far into the addiction they are.
Learning about the drug may also help you understand the drug a bit better. Understanding the appeal of the drug may help you understand why your loved one started using the drug in the first place. This understanding can help you look at the root cause of the issue and may give you something to work with when it comes time to confront your loved one about their problem.
Step Three: Learn about addiction.
Knowing a little bit about what addiction is and how it feels can be a great way to identify with your loved one. Someone who has never been an addict will have a hard time relating to a loved one with an addiction. Taking a little time to familiarize yourself with what your loved one is going through can help you confront them in a less threatening, judgmental way.
Step Four: Look into treatment options.
There are many treatment options available to drug addicts depending on the severity of the addiction and the drug the addict is abusing. Because it’s unlikely you’ll know the exact situation you’re in with your loved one, it’s a good idea to gather information on any and all treatment options available to you. Some will be fairly expensive while others will be more affordable. Look at that is best for your loved one. More expensive does not always mean better. If your loved one will need to go through detox (heroin addiction, prescription addiction or any other addiction that means a painful or potentially dangerous withdrawal process) you’ll need to get information on detox programs or rehab programs that include detox. Having as much information about treatments as possible before you confront your loved one will ensure you are ready with that information if they agree they need help.
Step Five: Gather other friends and family members to help.
If you are concerned about your loved one there is a good chance other friends and family members are concerned as well. Talk to mutual friends and family members, show them the information you’ve gathered about the drug, about addiction and about treatment options and discuss all of that information together. You may be able to get through to your loved one if you approach him or her on your own, but the message you’re sending may be better received if it’s coming from more than one person. In addition, not having to approach your loved one alone offers you much needed moral support. You are doing the right thing but it can be hard to remember that when things don’t go well, and chances are, things won’t go well.
Step Six: Prepare yourself for your loved one’s reaction.
There is a better than average chance that your loved one is not going to respond well when you confront them about their drug use. You can expect them to be defensive, angry, hurt, embarrassed, and a whole host of other negative emotions. There will probably be screaming, crying and possibly even threats of violence. It will feel horrible for you and for your loved one but remind yourself that you’re doing it for the right reasons. The drug your loved one is fighting so hard to defend – and that really is what they are fighting to defend – could one day kill them. The sad truth is that may happened regardless of what you do. If nothing else, you at least know that you tried your best to get them help before it was too late. That is the worst case scenario though. Oftentimes, your loved one will eventually accept your help and straighten out their lives. Just make sure you’re prepared for the initial battle.
Step Seven: Stage an intervention.
We’re going to talk a lot more about staging interventions is an upcoming article but right now, there are a few things I’d like to stress about doing an intervention the right way. First, ask a professional for help. A professional who has experience with interventions will help guide you and will help you understand exactly what you need to do. Once the intervention is there, be supportive and be loving but also be firm. Lay it on the line for your loved one. Let them know exactly how you feel. Tell them how their addiction is impacting you. If need be, write a letter in advance and read it to your loved one at the intervention. Avoid accusations or another that sounds judgmental. Try to be understanding. Most importantly, listen. Listen to what your loved one is saying to you. Listen to their concerns, their fears and their feelings. While there will probably be a lot of anger and hostility, there may be real truth in their words that may be able to help you help them going forward.
Step Eight: After the intervention.
What happens after the intervention depends on your loved one. It’s really as simple as that. If they agree to get help, you’ll need to lay out the options for them and help them make a smart choice. If they choose to reject your help, it may be time to walk away. If the addiction has progressed to the point that an intervention was necessary but your loved one is refusing help, there is little else you can do. Let your loved one know that you’ll always be there if they decide to get help and that you will be more than welcome to let them back into your life after they clean up, but that you can’t stand by and watch while they destroy their life. It may be the shove they need to choose to get help.
Step Nine: Follow through.
Regardless of what happened in the intervention, you need to make sure both you and your loved one follow through. If your loved one has agreed to get help, make sure they get it. Once they’re in rehab, make sure you let them know you still support them. Let them know they’re in your thoughts. Visit. Write. Call. Do whatever you’re allowed to do to stay in touch so they won’t feel abandoned or alone. A strong support system is vital to recovery. Make sure you’re offering it.
If the opposite happened and you’ve found yourself needing to walk away, as hard as it is, you have to stick to it. You do need to allow them a way to contact you if they decide they want help but contact should not go beyond that. No chit chatting over coffee. No dinners together. No casual visits. Don’t lend them money. Don’t let them show up at your house unannounced. They will probably plead for you to let them back in. Don’t do it. Stick to your guns. It will probably be the hardest thing you’ll ever do but until they’re ready to get help, your loved one – no matter how much you love them – will be toxic to you and to your family.
Step Ten: Move on.
If your loved one has gotten help and seems to be doing well, you really need to do everything you can do to build the trust up again between the two of you. You can’t keep throwing their past mistakes back in their faces. You have to give them the benefit of the doubt – at least a little bit. Don’t turn a blind eye to warning signs. If you really believe your loved one is using again, you need to be able to confront them. Just make sure you’re not worrying about nothing. You need to show them you believe they’ve changed while still letting them know you’re not going to ignore troubling warning signs.
If you’ve had to walk away from your loved one, you need to do everything you can to move on with your own life. You can’t let this addiction ruin your life as well. Focus on the things that make you happy. Worrying is normal, not to mention unavoidable, but you can’t let yourself fixate on something that is beyond your control. If you’ve let your loved one know you’re there if they decide to get help, you have done everything you can do. The rest is up to them.