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How we can help addicts in getting help – A guide for the family

August 24, 2021
Reviewed by: Rajnandini Rathod

How Can You Help a Family Member With Addiction

Over 2% of the world’s population has an addiction to substances or alcohol. That’s approximately 140 million people. It’s important to understand where addiction stems from and how they feel, especially when a loved one is suffering from the illness.

One of the causes of addiction is anxiety and depression. The person might feel helpless and worthless and think that they’ve failed and let everyone down. Feeling different from others and unlovable becomes a constant thought that makes alcohol or substance abuse the method of self-medicating. Risky behaviour such as impulsive sexual behaviour and spending activities make the addict feel alive.

People with addiction often feel the desire to live a normal life, but the addiction makes them unable to. Many people experiencing addiction are often in denial. They try their best to hide their addiction from their loved ones, and they have difficulty admitting that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol. It was always believed that an addict must hit rock bottom before accepting that they have a problem. Though this theory has changed, and you can intervene much before it gets worse.

What Is Stigma and The Problems Caused By It

Mental health stigma is defined as discrimination against a person with a mental health condition/illness, and addiction is a mental illness. There are 3 types of stigma- structural, public, and self.

Public stigma comes from the general public. It’s a bias that is traumatising for the person with an addiction. It leads to a lack of trust and hampers communication between the two individuals and, as a whole, is the reason for self-stigmatisation.

Self-stigmatisation causes guilt, shame, and self-esteem issues among individuals with a mental illness. It creates a barrier and makes the person not seek help from a loved one or mental health professionals.

Stigma is a massive concern caused due to lack of awareness and stereotyping illnesses. It continues to increase the gap between the onset of addiction and diagnosis.

Steps You Can Take To Help Your Loved One

  • Self-care. Dealing with your family member’s addiction can be hard on you too. It’s an exhaustive process, especially if they are in denial or have anger outbursts. You must also focus on your mental health. You can seek help from a therapist, join a support group for caregivers, and build coping strategies with the help of a therapist.
  • Learn everything you can about addiction. You can find several resources on addiction, and educating yourself will help deal with the blame game. Addiction isn’t a lack of willpower but a physiological and psychological illness. The knowledge gained will help you boost your confidence that people with addiction can overcome addiction with the right strategy and professional help.
  • Communication is vital. Let them know how you feel about their addiction. Be honest but not self-centred. Make sure that you don’t blame them for their addiction. It’s also crucial to listen to what they have to say.  Let them know that you believe that change is possible. 
  • Build trust between each other. Trust works both ways. You will have to learn to trust them. Focus on the use of language too. He/She is not a liar. He/She has been lying. Likewise, he/she is not an addict. They are only suffering from addiction. Make sure you don’t yell at each other, are respectful, and considerate of each other’s perspectives.
  • Be patient with the process. Treatment takes time and shouldn’t be rushed. It can cause much stress and ruin the progress made.
  • Seek professional help for both of you. Family therapy is an ideal form of counselling if you feel unable to communicate with your family member. It will help you build a strong communication and trust system with them.

Convince Them to Seek Help

An intervention might be necessary if the person is reluctant to seek professional help or deny their problem with addiction. The idea is to talk about the effects of the addiction and treatment plans that can help them want to live a sober life. The goal of the intervention is to bring their addiction problems to their awareness while assuring them that things will get better with some support. 

Try to understand why they don’t want to seek help. There are usually underlying psychological reasons such as stigma or the fear of sobriety that cause them to not seek help. Once you find out, you can find ways to get rid of the barriers. Make them understand that there is nothing wrong with them and it is only a condition that they can come out of. It is a long process but makes sure to keep the conversation inclusive. Remember that more than anything, they want to feel accepted and supported in this situation.

Ask them to join a support group without any strings attached. They can leave anytime they want, and they don’t need to reveal too many details to you. Support groups can help them find a place to open up about their issues, which they couldn’t do with you. People who have previously battled with addiction form these support groups to help each other and guide other people trying to seek the path of sobriety.

Help Is Here

Your family member can overcome addiction with your support and the help of mental health professionals. The first step should be educating yourself about the illness and finding out the best treatment options available. The steps mentioned in this article will help you initiate communication with the person with addiction and make a game plan. It can be a long and tedious process but is well worth it. Speak to a mental health professional to find the right strategy.