April 15, 2024

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How to help a family member with addiction

4 min read

Do you have a family member suffering from addiction, but you don’t know how to help them? Particularly during this period, physical isolation and estrangement cause great tension between family members who live together. This makes it even harder than usual to start a constructive conversation about a family member’s addiction.

This article will teach you effective ways to communicate constructively to help your loved one move forward in healing. The Five Stages of Change is a useful psychological model that describes the stages people go through, from not recognizing addiction to stable recovery. Understanding The Five Stages Of Change will help you recognize the current stage your loved one is in, which will allow you to effectively help them through this stage.

Also read: Retreat of Atlanta Detox Rehab Center

Addiction hurts families

Besides the suffering of dependent people, their families also suffer. For example, the spouses of dependent people are more likely to suffer from psychological problems, including depression and anxiety .  Marriages often deteriorate and fall apart due to addiction – a 2013 study found that partner dependence was the deciding factor in 12% of divorces. 

Addiction also makes it much more difficult to be a good parent. Children with a parent who is addicted to drugs often develop mental health problems and cognitive deficits.  These children are also more likely to have behavioral problems and academic difficulties. They are also more likely to develop substance use disorders on their own. 

Isolation and physical distancing worsens addiction

Physical isolation and remoteness strain the physical and mental health of many people. Most people have been forced to give up their daily routines and activities that previously gave them pleasure and stability. This places an even greater burden on family members with addiction, who face unprecedented levels of fear, frustration, uncertainty and loneliness.

Family ties are also put to the test. With all the stress, fear and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, compounded by self-isolation, family tensions are undoubtedly increasing. This makes it particularly difficult for family members to support loved ones in an appropriate way, while trying to deal with their own fears.

Speak with compassion; listen without judging

When you talk to a family member with addiction, what you say matters. But the tone you use is even more important. “Compassion” means that you are doing your best to understand how your loved one is feeling. This means that you must listen with empathy and not judge him in any way. Make sure he feels heard and that his pain is heard. Make sure he understands that you want him to feel better because you love him and want the best for him.

Shame. The fear. Isolation. Regret. Impotence. Pain. The despair. These kinds of feelings fuel addiction. The antidote to these emotions is compassion, which is about helping your family member feel supported, connected, and loved. Plus, by expressing compassionate kindness, you will help your loved one develop self-compassion. And self-compassion is a powerful tool in working towards healing from addiction. 

The five stages of change

Researchers have discovered five steps people take to move from not recognizing an addiction to making a stable recovery. The nature of the support a person needs depends on their current stage of change. The descriptions of the steps that follow will help you recognize what phase your loved one is in. Each stage description is followed by effective approaches to help a person at that stage.

Step 1: Pre-contemplation

In pre-contemplation, a person does not actively think about changing or does not want to change. Often, people in pre-contemplation are in denial. They don’t see their consumption as a problem. Your family member may also not be able or willing to see how their addiction is negatively affecting those close to them.

Help a family member in pre-contemplation

Because change isn’t necessarily on your loved one’s agenda, you want to gently encourage them to realize the harm their addiction is causing them. Without being judgmental, help them realize and consider the possible benefits of stopping or reducing use.

Here are some topics you can explore with your loved one.

  • Is it possible that he is becoming more and more addicted to the substance?
  • What risks does he run if he continues to use?
  • What would his life be like if he stopped using or if he consumed less?

Sometimes your loved one may deny that they have a problem and you may notice that they are becoming defensive. In such situations, you can decrease the intensity of the conversation by reminding your loved one that at the end of the day they are the one who decides whether or not to change, and no one else can make the decision for them. .

Step 2: Contemplation

In contemplation, a person begins to consider the idea of ​​stopping or reducing their substance use. Gradually, she begins to recognize the negative consequences of her addiction. However, people in contemplation are often ambivalent and uncertain about their willingness to change or not.

Help a family member in contemplation

Use open-ended questions to help your family member better understand how their life would be different if they quit using.

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of continued use?
  • What would be its benefits if it stopped consuming or if it consumed less?

By helping your loved one understand and assess the costs of their use and the benefits of their recovery, you can help them resolve their ambivalence and take their first steps towards change.

The contemplation stage is also a good time to remind your loved one that you are there for them and that you will support them throughout their recovery process. Knowing that he has your support can motivate him to make a decision and start preparing for change.

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