I once heard a comedian say that Alcoholism is the only disease that you can be yelled at for having. After the chuckle subsided, the reality of the disparity between these two worlds hit me. There are individuals who feel so hopelessly lost and trapped in despair and shame that they return to a substance that gives them fleeting euphoria and increasing pain. A clear-headed person will see that this behavior of diminishing returns leads to hiding, lying, isolation, loss, and emptiness. Sadly, a person engaging in chronic substance abuse is not thinking clearly and will walk into deeper denial and dependence. How can a family member or loved one help someone who is lost in chemical addiction?
The Nature of the Addiction Battle
Step One: Understanding the Battle
First, you have to understand addiction as a battle. This is more difficult than it appears. Most people lost in addiction don’t realize that they are participating in a battle in which they are already losing ground. When people use a controlled substance for the first time it is typically a choice, and from that point forward they see it as a series of choices. They do not see subtle changes over time. Their drug of choice alters their motivation for use. They begin using in order to feel euphoria and end up using to feel normal or at least not anxious. This is why it often takes a person hitting rock bottom before they are finally willing to seek change. During this sneak attack phase, through inaction, a person gives up the time that they can walk away with minimal damage. Loved ones, however, begin to notice that any control over the substance is quickly becoming incapacitating by dependence.
Alcoholism is the only disease that you can be yelled at for having.
Step Two: Find a Path Forward
The second step is to get them help. One of the fundamental components of AA and other 12 step programs is to acknowledge that you are powerless over your addiction. This is even more true for the loved one of the addict. It is sadly not within your power to convince, cajole, or coerce them into not using and they don’t see a need to change. That is where the family first feels much of their helplessness.
How can a family member or loved one help
someone who is lost in chemical addiction?
The Intervention Process
Find a Counselor
How do you transfer this helpless feeling to the addict in a way that is constructive and not shaming? This is a delicate but necessary process. It is typically best to involve a counselor or addictionologist with experience in this sort of intervention. Interventions are most effective when the addict is faced by loved ones from all parts of their lives. These loved ones share how the addiction has affected their lives and their relationship with the addict.
Gather Each Relationship Sphere
It is important to have each of the addict’s relationship spheres present so that they will be forced to face the disease and its destruction. If an sphere is left out, then they will most likely vent their frustration to someone in that unrepresented sphere in order to validate their belief that they do not have a problem.
Do not start this battle alone. Take the time to meet with a counselor to plan the process so that the healing process can finally begin. If you have a loved one who is blind to their chemical addiction or another unhealthy habit, please start the conversation with someone. We would be honored to begin this journey with you or help you find the level of treatment that fits your loved one’s needs.