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What can you do for an addicted loved one?

Its difficult to think of something that makes you feel as powerless as watching a loved one cycle downward in active addiction. So what do you do? There are a million different opinions, but here are a few ideas.

1. Express love and understanding. NO ONE is using drugs compulsively because they are happy and content. They may swear up and down that they have a great life, but it is a terrible burden to carry. Try to separate the negative behaviors you see from the hurt and scared person on the inside. Even while you should stick up for yourself and not let yourself be abused, try to remember there is a very fragile and lost soul just out of sight. An addicted brain is a slave to a chemical and usually is far past any rational behavior. Continue to encourage that they get help, offer to help put them in touch with resources, and tell them you love them.

2. Offer resources. If a person is terrified of inpatient treatment encourage them to try some kind of outpatient, such as intensive outpatient. The patient goes three times a week for 3 hours a day. They get to go home but they are drug-tested, receive lots of group counseling, and are able to receive fellowship with other people trying to get sober. Usually they meet with a psychiatrist to see what medications would be helpful. It helps to fill the excess of free time that is so problematic for many people early in recovery, especially at night. If they resist this option, encourage an individual counselor with experience in addiction. Although counseling once a week may be far less than they need it can often be a very good start. It gives the person another caring individual who can chip away at some of the denial that keeps them using and attaches them to another support. Encourage 12 step or Refuge recovery support groups. Local meetings can be looked up by state and many times hearing other people speak about their addictions can cause people to open up. Lastly, if you have any financial or other leverage over the person use what you have to push them toward any of the above options. Ideally everyone should choose recovery. In real life we know that's not how it works. You have a right to do what you can to push them into some treatment arena.

3. Protect and care for yourself. At the end of the day the most powerful thing you can do is demonstrate how to be a healthy  example of a human being. That's the most powerful leverage you have. if one person in a family is falling apart it does no one good if everyone falls apart. I know enabling is kind of a buzz word, but try not to feed the addiction. Don't give the person money. If you want to supply food or pay other bills for them temporarily that may be fine, but don't give them money they can direct towards drugs. You are trying not to give them the message that you approve and support what they are doing. It is impossible to remain objective in these situations. That is why AL-ANON, NAR-ANON, parent groups, and individual therapy are so recommended. These resources give you your own network of people to learn from who will keep the focus on you. It is incredibly beneficial to hear other people going through the same thing as you. You will also hear many whose children are in recovery and can warn you of mistakes they made. Addiction is a lonely disease for the individual and for the family. You want to find a community that understands.

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