We’re going to start this blog post by saying that addiction is an incredibly difficult disease to deal with — for the person in the throes of addiction and for those who can only stand by helplessly. If you suspect that your loved one is developing a substance use problem with drugs or alcohol, there are, in fact, some steps that you can take to help.
At Headrick Medical Center, under the experienced and compassionate care of Dr. Daniel J. Headrick, we specialize in substance use disorders and addiction treatment, and we believe that education is the first step.
To help you approach a loved one about getting addiction treatment, here’s what you need to know.
Addiction is actually one component of a substance use disorder, which is a disease that essentially hijacks the mind, body, and soul. The addiction component is the part that rewires the addict’s brain, creating uncontrollable cravings and the inability to stop using. There’s also a dependency aspect that leads to physical withdrawal symptoms when the substance is taken away, which is also one of the biggest hurdles to stopping use.
This hold that a substance use disorder has on your loved one’s brain (and behavior) is one that shouldn’t be underestimated. As neurons in their brain recircuit themselves to receive more of the substance, you’re up against a formidable foe — as is your loved one.
And this is the first bit of advice that we’d like to impart: We understand the terrible effects that addiction can have on your loved one’s behavior, but try to divorce these behaviors from the person you know and love. They, quite literally, aren’t in their right mind.
So your first step in approaching your loved one is to understand that they’re in the clutches of a disease that they have no control over.
One of the best ways to approach a loved one about getting treatment is to do your research ahead of time. Denial is one of the first reactions you may get from an addict, as well as the many reasons why they don’t need treatment, or can’t get it. By educating yourself on the signs of addiction and how we can fight back, you can address each objection as they’re raised.
As an example, early treatment of addiction is intensive, and your loved one may claim that they can’t afford the time it takes to address the problem. You can respond with the many ways that they can continue to lead their life — perhaps through our outpatient detox program. By anticipating their responses ahead of time and telling them that help is but one step away, you can help them see the path to sobriety more clearly. And the first step is the hardest, which is where your guidance is crucial.
There’s a universal truth in treating an addict, which is that they have to want to help themselves. Your role is to show them why they should want to. When you explain how their addiction affects your life, and the lives of others, try an approach of concern rather than accusation. Speak in terms of “I” (I feel that ..., this makes me feel..., etc.) and not “You.”
You can also be firm about the fact that their problem is wreaking havoc on the lives of those around them, but a guilt tactic is unnecessary because they feel enough guilt already. Trust us — disgust and self-loathing are often part and parcel of addiction.
We urge you to not go down this path alone. We’re here to help, and we’re happy to guide you through getting your loved one the care they need. Our goal is the same as yours, and together we can rediscover the vital, wonderful person that lies just below the addiction.
Simply give us a call at one of our San Juan Capistrano, California, offices or use our convenient online scheduling tool to set up an appointment.