How Do I Handle My Loved One’s Addiction?

Few things are more difficult than confronting a family member’s addiction. You may feel like you’re watching someone you love spiral out of control. You may fear for this person’s life, worry about other family members, and struggle with the repercussions of intense stress. The truth is that you can’t force your family member to overcome his or her addiction. He or she will have to do the emotional labor. You can, however, offer your support and encourage your loved one to get treatment.

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What Causes Addiction?

The first step to understanding an addicted relative is to educate yourself about addiction. The truth is that while one can choose to use drugs, nobody chooses to have an addiction. So how did your family member’s addiction start? Your loved one’s addiction may have started in one of several ways. Often, a combination of factors can lead to a substance abuse disorder. For example, below are just a few ways in which a person might become addicted to a substance.

  • Moderate social drinking turns into addiction when it turns out that alcoholism runs in the person’s family.
  • Experimentation with drugs becomes an addiction.
  • A person becomes addicted to pain medication after an injury.
  • A person self-medicates with drugs or alcohol to deal with depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
  • A student takes stimulants to handle academic pressure and then becomes addicted.

Drugs and alcohol work in various parts of the brain and body, making very real and powerful changes. While some drugs speed up the central nervous system, others slow it down. Many drugs cause the brain to release large amounts of “feel good” hormones like serotonin and dopamine. In any case, the body begins to compensate for the drug use. The brain and body adapt to such an extent that addicted individuals rely on the drugs to feel normal or okay. This dependence is powerful, and giving up drugs is not a matter of willpower. Your relative will need a multifaceted approach to heal the brain and body.

Are you struggling with addiction? Do you have a loved one who needs help?

Protecting Yourself and Your Loved One

Your addicted family member will need support, compassion, and safety. However, don’t forget that your health matters, too. Protect yourself and your relative by setting and enforcing your boundaries. You do not have to put up with abuse to help your family member. If you need law enforcement or an addiction expert to help you enforce your boundaries and protect yourself, then you are absolutely justified in getting help. Furthermore, you might consider seeing a therapist on a regular basis. People with addicted relatives often deal with PTSD and other mental health struggles, and a therapist can help you untangle your thoughts and feelings about the addiction.

Nearly half of Americans have a close friend or family member who struggles with addiction.

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