Addiction doesn't happen overnight. It's a gradual process. Sometimes family members don't recognize the small changes that occur daily, weekly or monthly—or how family members adapt to these changes. Here are seven steps you can take to see through the chaos of addiction and find help for your family.
Try a quick gut check. Do any of these behaviors sound familiar?
With the best of intentions, families tend to cope with the fear and chaos of addiction by keeping secrets, finding scapegoats, and adopting other unhealthy behaviors: preoccupation, denial, enabling or blaming.
Experts have identified telltale physical and behavioral signs of addiction to alcohol or other drugs:
You should also know that people with an addiction sometimes try to stop on their own. If so, you’ll see signs of withdrawal and patterns of reuse. Withdrawal from heavy and sustained use of substances can be dangerous; medical monitoring is needed in many cases.
When facing a loved one’s addiction, remember this: You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it. You can address the issue of alcohol or other drug addiction with your loved one, but any behavior change is up to them.
About 8.9 million persons have co-occurring disorders; they have both a mental health and a substance use disorder such as depression and alcoholism. The relationship between the two is complex, but treatment is effective when medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and drug and alcohol counselors work as a team to unravel and diagnose the problem and tailor care.
Addiction is a disease. If your loved one had a heart attack, would you stand back and blame him for his diet or lack of exercise or weight control? Most likely, you would rush to help. Alcohol and drug addiction is just like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. It’s just as life-threatening if left untreated.
It’s not easy to know what to do or say, but the stakes are high—you may literally be saving a life.
Keep these guidelines in mind for your conversation:
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and other addiction treatment centers have professional staff who conduct addiction screenings and assessments. A professional assessment is the best way to assess the problem, establish the facts, and determine what kind of treatment or other services will help lead to recovery and sobriety.
With care and support, your family can work through the chaos you've experienced and begin rebuilding relationships based on honesty and responsibility.