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How Can I Help My Loved One Who is Struggling with Addiction?

We are often contacted by people asking for information to help their loved ones who are struggling with addiction. Most of them are simply asking where they should start. Finding treatment can be a very hard process for families and friends who just don’t know where to begin to find help for their loved ones. Reaching out is a good first step.

Here are a few suggestions to assist you in helping your loved ones struggling with addiction:

Step 1: Educate Yourself – How do I Know if my Loved one has an Addiction?

When seeking help, families are often uncertain about whether or not their loved one has an addiction. Even professionals can sometimes confuse addiction with substance use. You don’t have to become an expert – educating yourself will be extremely beneficial for both you and the person you are wanting to help.

There are a number of tests and a list of symptoms a person can use to see whether or not their loved one has an addiction. We recommend the simple “3 C’s of Addiction” test that can be found on our website.

The 3 C’s are Compulsion, Control and Consequences.

  • Compulsion

Compulsion is obsessive behaviour that individuals demonstrate when it comes to their addiction. The key here is that compulsion happens before the individual engages in the addiction behaviour.

  • Control

Control refers to what happens after the individual starts consuming or participating in their addiction.

  • Consequences

Consequences are defined as the outcome of an action. In order for a bad habit to be considered an addiction, it must qualify for C #3 – the consequence has to be negative and the bad habit must continue in spite of continued negative consequences.

Step 2: Take Care of Yourself First – What if I Can’t Handle it?

Self-care is important for everyone. If your friend or family member is struggling, you need to be as prepared as possible to help them seek treatment for their mental health and/or addiction(s). Seeking out a professional to talk to can be extremely beneficial for your own mental wellbeing as you support your loved one in their recovery process. Getting enough sleep, fresh air, exercise and trying not to worry is also essential.

To learn more about self-care for families in addiction click here.

Step 3: Reach out and Offer Support – How do I Bring up Addiction with my Loved one who is Struggling?

Something that we recommend to people who are looking for help for a loved one is to join with other family members, friends, and even employers to work as a group rather than trying to take it on individually. There is strength in numbers.

Loved ones can have a significant impact on the life of a person struggling with addiction. If you must do it alone, sitting down with them, during the right time (preferably when they are not intoxicated) and expressing your concerns calmly and clearly, without speculation or judgment, can have a great deal of influence. Having resources prepared such as information on treatment centres and different therapies can also encourage them to get help.

If you need some additional resources request our Family Intervention Brochure which includes how to distinguish between substance use and addiction, the steps involved in family intervention, and a list of Family Interventionists in Canada that we recommend.

Step 4: Create Boundaries for Yourself so you can Support Throughout Recovery – How do I set Boundaries to Take Care of Myself While Still Being Supportive?

Setting personal boundaries when you are a loved one of someone grappling with addiction is important because when someone has an addiction that person’s number one relationship is with the substance or behaviour. It is important to protect yourself and try to minimize the effects of their addiction on yourself. This can create safety in a chaotic situation.

Establishing boundaries can be uncomfortable when you’re not used to it or when it is a new thing in your relationship. That is why it is important that you are realistic and that your intention is to reduce the impact of the addiction on you rather than trying to control the person.

There are three steps for setting effective boundaries.

  1. Define the Boundary
    • How much of this issue is within your control and what is not? Make sure that you are realistic and avoid ultimatums.
  2. Clearly Communicate
    • Be assertive but remain calm throughout the conversation and offer explanations to get your message across. Timing and making sure your loved one is of the right frame of mind is essential.
  3. Be Consistent
    • Follow through with what you say but be flexible and open-minded while also upholding your own personal values.

To learn more about setting boundaries for families in addiction click here.

Helping a loved one with an addiction will be tough for both you and that person. Support from people who love them is as essential in a person’s recovery as therapy. If you have questions or need support, please reach out. Call us toll-free at 1.866.487.9010 or visit www.sunshinecoasthealthcentre.ca.

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