One of the most common questions from loved ones regarding someone who is struggling with substance abuse is "how to help an addict." While there is no simple step-by-step solution to helping the addict in your life, there are several ways you can help them and yourself.
First, it's important to note that many people struggling with drug or alcohol abuse also likely struggle with mental health and/or physical problems. All of which can spill over into their personal lives and cause suffering for their loved ones. It's important to know the signs of substance abuse problems.
Symptoms of Substance Abuse
According to the Mayo Clinic, a person struggling with substance abuse may have symptoms that are only internal experiences. However, several symptoms may be evident to others, such as:
- Frequently missing work or school.
- Physical health issues, such as lack of energy, changes in weight, and/or red eyes.
- Neglected appearance or poor hygiene.
- Changes in behavior, such as exaggerated efforts to keep people out of personal spaces, being secretive about where they've been, attending fewer social events, or drastic changes in relationship behaviors.
- Money issues, such as sudden requests for a loan without a reasonable explanation, missing/stolen money, or missing/stolen items.
- Appearing intoxicated more frequently.
- Memory problems.
While it is true that loved ones have a good amount of influence in the life of a person struggling with substance abuse, it is important to remember that this is their battle. To truly get well, they will need to do it on their own. However, there are some steps you can take to help them.
- Remember that addiction is a disease and not a choice.
- Don’t dismiss the problem by making excuses for your loved one.
- Set boundaries and stand by them.
- Encourage your loved one to seek help, such as an inpatient rehab facility. Help them by finding treatment resources for them.
- Seek counseling or therapy for yourself.
- Set an example of healthy living by eliminating recreational drug and alcohol use from your own life and home.
- Take care of yourself.
- Be supportive.
- Be optimistic.
- Don't push: remember this is their battle.