Bringing a Loved One Back From Addiction
There are few things in life that are more painful than seeing someone you love go off the rails because of substance abuse. Their family life begins to crumble; their career comes to a screeching halt; and they become emotionally distant, angry or depressed.
“Addiction is tricky and calculating, and it’s the only disease that can take more than one person down with it, if it is left unchallenged. Addiction dramatically alters the lives of not just the addicted person, but of everyone within his or her vicinity, namely family and friends,” according to DrugRehab. Though it may seem daunting, it may be up to you to stop the destruction in its tracks. Fortunately, advancements in our understanding of this disease are clearing the way forward.
Know Your Enemy
The first step is knowing what you are up against. “Substance addiction is less about the amount consumed and more to do with the consequences of abuse,” reports the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. The most clear signs appear when the sufferer begins to neglect home life, school or work in favor of alcohol or drugs; continues the behavior regardless of the problems it causes; or abandons things they used to enjoy such as sports or hobbies.
Sufferers cannot simply stop as their addiction results from a rewiring of the brain's reward system, which is flooded with a “pleasure chemical” called dopamine. Drug use can result in the production of two to 10 times as much dopamine as other sources of pleasure such as eating or sex, resulting in euphoric effects that set in motion a pattern that reinforces the abuse. Getting out of that pattern requires more than just willpower.
Adopt a Caring Attitude
The next step is to approach the sufferer with the goal of having them admit they have a problem. Direct confrontation was once considered the best option, but psychologists and treatment specialists have come with a new method that may be more effective. It’s called Community Reinforcement and Family Training, and it seeks to improve the way family and friends interact with the sufferer to encourage them toward treatment while helping reduce their alcohol or drug use and improve the lives of those around them.
Empathy plays an important role, according to Psychology Today. This means showing concern for the sufferer while remaining calm regardless of how they react to suggestions to seek treatment. Above all, do not be judgmental, as this may provoke a defensive response and make the situation worse.
Research Your Choices
Options for addiction depend on several factors such as what type of substance the sufferer was addicted to, but most methods are similar in that they include some mix of inpatient and outpatient programs, counseling, meetings, sponsorships and medication.
Choosing the right one means doing more research. A peaceful location is one quality to look for in any inpatient program as well as a qualified staff and flexible payment options. The availability of customized programs should also be considered as treatment could differ depending on the patient’s age, gender or social background.
Stick With It
Full recovery does not end with a treatment plan. It’s important to maintain an aftercare strategy to keep your loved one on the right track as addiction is chronic, requiring long-term commitment to avoid relapse. The right approach helps the patient return to health through therapy sessions or group meetings that deal with improving the patient’s overall lifestyle.
Relationship skills are important as they may have been damaged through the the addiction, and the support of loved ones is paramount in remaining clean. Other elements include having a meaningful purpose such as a rewarding job or a nice home, and the money management skills and life coaching to get there. But the most important element is you. Stand by your loved one no matter how hard it gets.
The road to recovery may be long, so it’s important to maintain your own mental and physical health along the way. This includes finding ways to cope with stress through exercise and healthy eating, yoga or meditation. Remember that those around you need someone they can rely on.
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