When you have a loved one with substance use disorder (SUD), it can feel difficult and discouraging to help them. However, SUDs are a disease that affects millions of Americans every day. It is possible to encourage and help a loved one seek help for their addiction.
The Effects of Addiction on the Brain
The brain has different sections that control different aspects of functioning. For example, emotions, memory, and language are all stored in different parts of the brain. Neurons create networks between these different parts, known as circuits. Neurons receive, process, and control the flow of information.
Drugs and alcohol affect the brain. The brain will stop functioning properly after prolonged substance use. The National Insitute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains, “Drugs interfere with the way neurons send, receive, and process signals via neurotransmitters.” This means that the areas in charge of pleasure, stress, and decision-making can become overloaded or numb, requiring more substance use to enjoy life or numb painful emotions.
Stopping Substance Use
Over time, your loved one’s brain and body become accustomed to alcohol and drug use. When those substances are absent, their body can go into withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can vary but often include the following:
- Racing heart
- Excessive sweating
- Extreme changes in body temperature
- Body tremors
Withdrawal can be a painful process, depending on factors such as the substance(s) that were used, how frequently they were used, and how intensely they were used. It can also be a dangerous process, as certain drugs interfere with organ functioning. For severe addictions, withdrawal symptoms may include life-threatening complications, including seizures or heart attacks. Due to this, detoxification services are often required to help your loved one cease their substance use.
Helping a Loved One With Addiction
It is important to remember that you cannot do all of the work for your loved one. They have to find the motivation to succeed in sobriety, or they may not last through treatment and recovery. That being said, there are practical and hands-on things you can do to help a loved one get help for addiction.
Although your loved one has likely changed as a result of their addiction, you still love and care for them. If you want to support them in recovery, it is important to express care and understanding. Showing judgment or questioning their behavior can cause your loved one to doubt themselves. If they doubt themselves in recovery, it may increase their risk of relapse.
Become Educated About Addiction
Being educated on SUD and its effects are important to help your loved one with SUD. If you do not understand how drugs and alcohol affect the brain, how are you supposed to show compassion? If you have never felt the pain of withdrawal or know its effects, how can you support your loved one through the pain?
It is important that your loved one is educated as well. They may not know what is happening in their body. Helping them understand the facts of their disorder may lead to more acceptance on their part.
Set an Example of Sober Living
To help your loved one stay committed to sobriety, especially if this is someone you see often, you can set an example of healthy living. Examples of healthy, sober living include:
- Choosing alternative places of gathering rather than bars
- Not having substances on display in your home when they are over
- Cleaning your social media of substance use paraphernalia
- Setting boundaries
Although you do not have to change your entire life, there are small things in your day you can change to set a healthy, sober example for your loved one.
Provide Research for Treatment
Researching treatment programs can be confusing, and there are a lot available. Unfortunately, not all treatment programs are effective. You can help your loved one get treatment by researching effective programs and facilities.
A good place to start research is to look up programs that offer extended care. In extended care, your loved one will not only receive help managing their SUD but also any co-occurring mental health disorders.
Create Plans to Avoid Triggers
Avoiding or managing triggers is important for relapse prevention. A plan can be simple, like:
- Saying no to social invites
- Removing substances and paraphernalia from their home
- Not hanging out with friends who enable substance-using behaviors
Suggested plans may include more drastic steps to avoid triggers, such as:
- Not talking to family members who trigger them or also have an addiction
- Moving away from friends, dealers, or areas with high substance use
- Take a break from work or school
To support your loved one in their recovery, you may want to establish boundaries. You do not want to enable their addiction. Examples of boundaries between you and your loved one include:
- Not providing them with financial assistance
- Not using alcohol or drugs around them
- Not providing legal support if they get in trouble
Get Help for Yourself, Too
Being a support person can be a lot of pressure. It can get exhausting. If you want to be there for your loved one with an addiction, it can be helpful to find a safe space for yourself. Individual therapy or group therapy can provide support for you as you support your loved one in recovery.
Do you have a loved one struggling with addiction? Substance use disorders are mental diseases that require understanding, support, and professional treatment. Family and friends have an important role in recovery and should be included in the process. At Lighthouse Recovery Texas, we help you and your loved one understand their addiction and learn skills to manage it. We offer a number of services, including family therapy, to help you and your loved one heal from the effects of addiction. Our first priority is your loved one’s recovery. We will work with them to create a treatment plan that is effective and unique to your loved ones’ needs. To learn more, call (214) 396-0259 today.