Those who find themselves struggling with a drug addiction are in danger of having their life destroyed by an illness that could literally take over everything. But when drug addiction conquers all the person’s thoughts and actions, he or she may become impossible to live with also.
It is often thought that addiction is a lifestyle choice or the consequence of poor decision making or bad behaviour, but it is actually an illness of the brain. However, knowing that it is an illness and that the person affected has no control over his or her actions often does not make it easier for family and friends when it comes to living with or dealing with this individual. So, what can you do when drug addiction conquers all?
Is Your Loved One Affected by Drug Addiction?
Many drug addicts will practice denial when it comes to their illness. They will not want to admit that they have a problem, and there are many reasons for this. It could be that they are worried about a drug-free life or because they are afraid that they will not be able to get through a programme of detox and rehabilitation. Others are genuinely unable to see that they have a problem, and this is something that can happen to loved ones too.
On occasion, the family members or friends of a drug addict will be in denial. It is often because they are ashamed or embarrassed that someone they love could be affected by this illness, an illness that carries so much stigma with it. They would rather pretend that nothing is amiss so that they do not have to face up to the truth. But this can be disastrous as failure to hold the addict to account for his or her actions could simply allow this person to carry on as they are without reaching out for help.
If you have suspicions that a loved one is in trouble, you need to raise the subject with him or her. Even if things do not seem so bad right now, failing to tackle the issue head on is likely to mean the situation will deteriorate further.
As the addiction progresses, your loved one will become more and more consumed by the drugs that he or she is taking, which can affect every aspect of not only this person’s life but yours too. When drug addiction conquers all thoughts and actions, your loved one will no longer be in a position to make good choices and will have absolutely no control over his or her compulsion to use.
How Addiction Affects Others
People with drug addictions rarely consider how their actions are affecting those they love. Many simply do not realise that the way they are behaving can have a negative effect on others. They are consumed by their own needs and cannot see beyond that.
But when it comes to addiction, family members and friends can be severely affected. It is difficult to watch someone you love continuing to abuse drugs and knowing that there is not a lot you can do to stop them. Some family members will react by doing everything they can to try to help their addicted loved one to get better. They will beg and plead with them to stop taking drugs and, in most cases, the addict will tell them whatever it is they want to hear before breaking those promises when the urge to take drugs comes over them.
After a while, the family member or friend may become disheartened and upset because they will realise that they cannot force their loved one to get help. Some family members will become angry with the addict because they cannot understand why he or she continues to use drugs when doing so is having such negative effects on the entire family. They fail to understand that their addicted loved one cannot stop what he or she is doing.
There is no doubting the harm that is caused to adult members of an addict’s family, but children are also deeply affected. Many children are left feeling confused and upset by the behaviour of the addict, and some will even blame themselves. They think that they may have done something wrong and are the reason their addicted parent is acting this way.
Children of addicts are affected emotionally, and some will go on to suffer with addiction themselves in later life. Many will find it hard to form healthy relationships with others, and if they are neglected by their addicted parent, they may find themselves the target of bullies.
Will Your Loved One Accept Help?
The best-case scenario for friends and family members is for their addicted loved one to realise that he or she has a problem and to ask for help, although this is something that rarely happens. It is more likely that you will notice the addiction long before your addicted loved one has any idea that he or she is in trouble.
There are three stages that the affected individual will need to go through to get to the point where he or she realises that help is necessary. The first stage is recognition, and this is when the person actually realises that drug use has reached problem levels. It often takes an ultimatum from a loved one, employer, or a warning from a medical professional before the truth of the situation dawns on them.
After the realisation that the problem exists, your addicted loved one will need to accept a diagnosis of addict. This can be one of the most difficult parts of the process because accepting the fact of being classed as an addict is never easy. Nevertheless, once your loved one can do this, he or she may be ready to accept help.
The more common situation will be one where the addict refuses to accept a need for help. He or she will flat-out refuse to even admit to having a problem and may even become angry or aggressive at the mere suggestion that he or she has an addiction. Their mind is so clouded by the substance that they are using, and their brain has been altered because of the chemicals. This means they are unable to accept the seriousness of their situation. So, what can you do when drug addiction conquers all rational thought and common sense?
Helping an Addicted Loved One into Treatment
You probably already know that there is no way to force an addicted loved one to get help until he or she is ready to do so themselves. Nonetheless, that does not mean that you should just stop trying to encourage this person into treatment.
Crying and shouting will not help because no matter how many promises your loved one makes, he or she will almost certainly find that when the urge to use drugs takes over, all promises will quickly be forgotten about.
You may want to take some time to calmly discuss your feelings with the affected individual. It is important to avoid getting angry at this point, however difficult that may be. Speak rationally with the person about how his or her actions have affected you. You may find that he or she responds more positively to the suggestion that he or she is in danger of becoming an addict rather than already being one.
If this fails, you might need to consider arranging a family intervention. A family intervention is a chance for a group of people close to the addict to come together to discuss the illness and the impact it has had on their lives.
During an intervention, each participant should have the opportunity to have his or her say and to explain to the addict how the addiction has affected them. The idea is to get the affected person to realise the extent of the damage that his or her illness has had and not to punish or berate him or her.
With most interventions ending in success, this can be a fantastic opportunity to get a loved one to accept a need for help. Even those that do not conclude with the addict accepting help can be hugely therapeutic for family members and friends.
It is important to remember that to make an intervention work, participants must have some evidence of how the addict’s illness has negatively impacted on their lives. If there is little evidence of harm caused to others, the addict is unlikely to accept help.
How to Stage a Family Intervention
If you have decided that a family intervention might be appropriate for your situation, then you need to think about who should take part. Ask those closest to the addict to be involved, but exclude anyone who might antagonise the person. Older kids can be effective when it comes to getting an addict to realise he or she needs help, but younger children should not be involved.
Before the day of the intervention, those who are participating should come together to discuss how it will be run and to rehearse what they are going to say. That way, there will be no confusion on the day of the meeting. It is important that each participant give examples of when the addict’s behaviour affected them. This should include details of when the incident happened, how the affected individual’s behaviour was related to their substance abuse, and how the behaviour made the aggrieved family member feel.
If the intervention is planned carefully beforehand and is run by someone who is able to keep things calm, there is no reason why it should not have a successful outcome. This will mean your loved one agreeing to get treatment.
However, you may find that the person is still resistant to the idea of help and may instead promise to stop taking drugs. A response like this can be extremely disheartening because you have likely heard such promises before. Nevertheless, do not feel as though all is lost. If this is the response you get, you should suggest that your loved one agree to treatment should he or she begin using drugs again.
If there is a flat-out refusal to accept the problem or to get help, you should take heart in the knowledge that the intervention has undoubtedly planted some seeds in the mind of the addict. Even though he or she is refusing to get help at the moment, it is likely that thoughts will have been planted and maybe the day where he or she does finally accept help is not so far around the corner.
Have Treatment in Place
If your family intervention is a success and your loved one has agreed to get treatment, it is better if he or she can get started immediately. This means that you should have some options ready to discuss on the day. Any delay with a treatment programme could give your loved one ample opportunity to change his or her mind. Having a treatment plan in place beforehand could mean that this person gets started on the road to recovery as soon as possible.
For most people with a severe addiction to drugs, an inpatient programme is the best option. This will take place after a detox where the physical addiction is treated. In an inpatient treatment facility, the addict will have no access to any temptations and will live in a distraction-free environment for the duration of his or her treatment.
Here at Recovery Lighthouse, we provide excellent treatment programmes for those with all types of addictions. If you are interested in learning more about our programmes for yourself or a loved one, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Our dedicated helpline is available and is staffed by a team of friendly and fully trained advisors who can answer any of your queries and provide the information you need in terms of overcoming addiction.
We are regulated by the Care Quality Commission and our team of doctors, counsellors and therapists are all here to ensure that our patients are given the best possible care at all times. Please call today to find out more about who we are and what we do.