Nobody expects to go through this. Watching someone you care for, perhaps more than anything else in the world, slowly or suddenly develop an addiction that threatens to destroy your relationship. For a moment, re-examine that last sentence, and imagine what it would take for you not to care for that person, that much.
This is the crucial first step in understanding addiction. How hard would something have to be pulling at you, for you to put that, not your loved ones, before everything else? This is how much of a vice-like grip the addiction has on your loved one. However, it doesn’t have to always be that way.
See past the problem – even if they cannot
There are two schools of thought on how involved friends and family members should be in helping someone who has an addiction. One approach is to leave the person to it, hoping that willpower and the realisation that they are alone will sink in. The other is to become involved, talk about the problem, and engage addiction with compassion.
In reality, you should start by aiming for somewhere in-between. Once you accept that you’re dealing with an addict, and not somebody who is lacking willpower and choosing to behave this way, you’re closer to both the problem and the solution. However, remember that the moment your loved one wants a drink or drug, no amount of encouragement is likely to stop them.
Don’t expect an immediate reaction
Somewhere in the mind of your loved one, they know that they’re in the grip of addiction, no matter how defensive they may be. The dilemma they’re faced with, however, is that, by acknowledging their addiction, they might be faced with a genuine solution to it – and this equates to no more of the substance they’ve been using to cope with life.
Suddenly removing the substance from their life would be like asking somebody to go about their usual day naked and riddled with anxiety. It’s never going to happen that quickly, but knowing this in itself is another step forward.
There will be many physical, emotional and mental difficulties along the way, but accepting that change will not happen overnight will not only help the addict – it will help you to deal with the situation, too.
Discuss your options when the time is right
Until it’s acknowledged that, yes, ‘this is addiction’, you may have to be patient. Before this moment, you’ll encounter denial, promises (both false and genuinely well-intentioned), secretive behaviour, and complete avoidance. However, when the moment comes, and your loved one admits what is happening, you’ve made a big step forward.
For some families, this will be the first time that the perceived addict and their nearest and dearest have agreed on anything in a long time. This is the moment that you can discuss programmes, treatments, and a path through addiction and out of the other side.
Plan for this moment by researching local charities or treatment centres that could help. ANA Treatment Centres, for example, offers facilities for drug and alcohol rehab in Surrey.
If you understand what your loved one is going through, you’ll also be a useful resource for the professionals involved at such centres as they deliver life-changing treatment.