Helping a Loved One Through Addiction
Substance abuse creates wounds felt not only by the addicted individual, but also by the circle of people who love them. Family and friends of someone struggling with a substance use disorder may be at a loss for how to begin the conversation about getting help.
At our detox and inpatient rehab facility in Southern California, we provide resource guides with tips on how to talk to a loved one productively and arrange treatment.
Resources for Families of those Struggling with Addiction
Signs of Drug or Alcohol Abuse in a Family Member
People who are abusing drugs or alcohol may display some of the following physical, social, and behavioral warning signs, including:1
- Bloodshot eyes.
- Abnormally large or small pupils.
- Sudden weight loss or gain.
- Declining physical appearance.
- Strange odors on the body or clothes.
- Impaired speech.
- Lack of coordination.
- Change in group of friends.
- Legal problems related to drug or alcohol use.
- Unexplained requests for money.
- Lacking motivation.
- Frequently missing work or school.
- Getting into trouble (fights, accidents, etc.).
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns.
- Secretive behavior (sneaking around, lying, etc.).
- Sudden mood swings (e.g., angry outbursts or seeming depressed one minute and excitable the next).
- Seeming anxious, paranoid, or fearful for no apparent reason.
Keep in mind these signs can vary by person as well as substance. Your family member may display only a few of these or none at all.
How to Avoid Enabling a Family Member’s Addiction
The best way to avoid enabling is to set limits and maintain healthy boundaries.2 But that can be difficult and painful.
Enabling often stems from good intentions and can be hard to distinguish from helping. Helping becomes enabling when it allows your loved one to avoid the consequences of their drug or alcohol use.3
Examples of enabling include:
- Not following through on threats to leave a spouse or partner.
- Looking for a job for your family member.
- Not disciplining your child or taking away privileges when they come home intoxicated or past curfew.
- Bailing them out of jail if they are arrested.
Getting a Family Member to Addiction Rehab
Talking to your family member about treatment can be challenging. Remember that you can’t force your loved one to seek treatment, but you can provide encouragement and help them see the benefits of starting a recovery program.
You can search for recovery centers on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s website. Some things to look for in a treatment program include:4
- Staff credentials. Ask about required licenses and accreditations.
- Evidence-based treatments. Inquire about the full range of therapies a specific program utilizes.
- Treatment for co-occurring disorders. If your family member has a mental health condition in addition to their substance use disorder, ask if the center provides integrated treatment for both conditions.
- Individualized treatment. Everyone has unique requirements and treatment should address your family member’s individual drug abuse patterns and psychiatric, social, and medical needs.
- Medical detox programs in Orange county. This involves a set of interventions designed to help your family member stay safe and comfortable during withdrawal. Ask if this service is available.
- Levels of rehab care. The recommended type of treatment (e.g., inpatient or outpatient) largely depends on a person’s specific needs. Ask any prospective centers what forms of care they provide and where their programs are located.
Paying for Drug or Alcohol Treatment
Thanks to recent federal expansions in coverage, most insurance plans are required to cover at least some portion of addiction treatment.
If your family member lacks insurance or their insurance doesn’t cover the entire fee, you can also consider financing or other flexible payment options. Some people use credit cards or ask family members for loans. Recovery centers may also offer sliding scale fees or scholarships based on ability to pay.
Family Role in Addiction Recovery Process
Family and friends can play a vital role in the recovery process.5
The various ways to become involved in a loved one’s recovery include:
- Approaching them about the need for treatment and helping find recovery resources.
- Visiting them in rehab and showing encouragement for the steps they’re taking to get help.
- Participating in family therapy.
- Reading and supporting their aftercare and relapse prevention plans.
While you are not the cause of your loved one’s addiction and you certainly can’t cure it, you can be an integral part of their efforts to get and stay sober.