Among Americans aged 12 years and older, 14.8 million have an alcohol use disorder and 8.1 million report a drug use disorder. In reality, substance abuse and addiction bring problems and suffering to far more people. Abusers have parents, siblings, spouses, and/or children that are affected by their self-destructive behavior.
Since addiction is a family affair, its members should cope with it together. How can you provide meaningful help and support? Try the following 10 tips.
Knowledge about addiction is power.
Getting information about substance use disorder (SUD) is the beginning of doing something about it. For example, when you start understanding the disease process, you stop taking a person’s inability to quit as weakness or obstinacy. Addiction is tied to changes in the brain structure and function.
The public library, bookstores, and the Internet have a great amount of information on treatment and support. Also, drug abuse hotline is available for those who have a dependent family member. They provide free confidential consultations on SUD and treatment facilities. You can ask for the contacts of professionals that offer treatment or a couple of rehab numbers.
Spend time with people who care.
SUD is stressful and may have long-term consequences not only for an addict but for a whole family. It makes sense to connect with someone who understands what all of you are going through.
Support family groups for those concerned about another’s drinking or taking drugs can be useful and can help you learn more. People participate in these meetings because they want to get over stressful times, get a sense of belonging and self-worth, and learn to deal with a close person’s addiction.
Take advantage of family therapy.
Undergoing individual treatment helps addicts to focus on their own recovery. But it doesn’t focus on fixing relationships that might have been damaged or ruined due to the uncontrolled emotional state of the substance-using family member. Distance, resentment, anger, guilt, and misunderstanding stunt the recovery process.
Family therapy sessions help to rebuilt healthy family bonds. A recent study shows that the involvement of significant others (romantic partners, family, friends) in SUD treatment helps succeed in beating addiction and reduce substance-related problems. In fact, it increases the chances for long-term sobriety, as the effect is consistent and endures 12-18 months after the end of treatment.
Visit private therapy sessions.
Research shows that families of addicts are more prone to anxiety and depression. Sometimes, people can’t cope with psychological wounds or exhaustion by themselves.
If you want to speak to the therapist in a personal meeting, you can do so. Just make a request to schedule it. There, you can speak candidly and work through the worrying issues.
If you need support instantly, pick up your phone. A drug question hotline is a safe and anonymous outlet for those who need to share their thoughts and emotions with somebody who can give a good piece of advice.
Educate and advocate.
The stigma, lack of awareness, and misinformation around addiction are still a big problem. Many people view addiction as a moral failing and not a disease. Sadly, judgemental language is sometimes used even in the medical community.
You might hear criticism or harsh comments from friends, colleagues, or relatives. Share the true information you’ve learned from your private research and therapist. Awareness creation contributes to the shift of public opinion on the issue.
Have realistic expectations.
When a person decides to quit and agrees to receive treatment, the whole family feels relief, hope, and excitement. But recovery takes time.
Don’t let slow progress disappoint you. Continue to hold your family member accountable to a relapse prevention plan. If you notice the old behavior patterns return, offer help to direct him or her to the treatment they need.
There may be times when you yourself feel out of strength. Fortunately, such a service as 24 hour addiction helpline exists. Consultants provide guidance and support to those who help addicts.
Share family meals.
Eating together is more than physical nourishment. It feeds people emotionally and draws them together. Discussing the day during supper can help your family stay connected and supportive. It’s also an opportunity to talk about the progress in family therapy.
Cooking and serving your meals together and cleaning up afterward increases the time you spend together and strengthens the family bonds. Even a few gatherings per week can be beneficial.
Relax and unwind.
Managing stress during this difficult time is important for each family member. It can be any activity that brings joy.
Artistic hobbies like painting, writing, dancing, and playing a musical instrument have mood-lifting effects. Volunteer work is a great way to avoid being lonely. Working in the garden, learning to cook, or making a DIY project can be good ways to distract from negative thoughts and feel pleasant emotions.
Jogging together in the morning or playing outdoor games on the weekend may not seem engaging for everyone in the family. But it’s worth the effort.
Firstly, routine exercise improves physical wellbeing that can aid in recovery. Secondly, physical activity bumps up the production of the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. It helps to reduce stress and boosts mood. So, try to get at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate physical activity per week, as recommended by The American Heart Association.
Fix your sleeping schedule.
People who abuse alcohol or take drugs tend to experience the most dangerous occurrences in the night. Meetings with dealers, overdoses, wondering home after parties, and other situations don’t let family members sleep well.
Insomnia can be a problem even after the beginning of treatment. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. You need quality night rest to feel enough strength to assist your family member in recovery.
With so many services for families with a problem of SUD, it’s unwise to solve it alone. Call a national addiction hotline for free advice. Contact a medical professional for qualified assistance. The combination of efforts can give the best outcome.