Our Top 10 Tips for Parents (or Loved Ones) of Someone Battling Addiction

10 Tips Image 13Embrace Early Screening & Early Intervention

As a parent or family member, you may recognize early signals of addiction in your loved one. It’s never too early to discuss the dangers of addiction with them or to have them pre-screened for early detection. This may help identify risk factors that will help prevent further and future damage to both to their health and livelihood. An early screening and intervention will help clarify if their use and profile is suitable for treatment. Treatment is a significant financial and physical commitment so you want to be sure they really meet the clinical standards for treatment. Much can be done in the early stages of addiction with the help of therapy, intensive and outpatient care. Visit a local outpatient treatment center to have them evaluated if they’re willing.

Don’t Worry About Timing

You may never know exactly when the right time is to help your loved one get help. Studies show that even if the addict hasn’t “hit rock bottom”, they may still reach long-term recovery if their addiction treatment enables them to understand a new, safe and successful way of living. And as we all know, so many families have experienced that waiting too long to intervene can cause them their loved one’s life.10 Tips Image 2

The Importance of a Professional Intervention

In the grips of addiction, it is often difficult for the addict to accept they have a problem and agree to long-term treatment, let alone see the damage they are doing to themselves and their family. Staging and intervention may be the best opportunity to allow them to understand the depth of their problem and agree to get help. Unfortunately, the least effective members of an intervention tend to be close family. So choosing a professional interventionist, or escorting a loved one to an outpatient center for an evaluation is often the best opportunity to see them into a treatment setting. Help from an outside interventionist, someone who understands their pain and their journey, who also has an objective viewpoint, is the best voice of reason for an addict. The interventionist will also help you stage the intervention, develop a strategy and lead the conversation for the most successful opportunity at getting your loved one the treatment they need.

10 Tips Image 4Recognize That Self-Detoxing Can Be Deadly

If your loved one has decided to begin the process of quitting their drug of choice, even if they’re not ready for treatment, it’s critical that they detox in a medically supervised detoxification center. Most people don’t realize that detoxing can lead to death. For those who abuse alcohol and drugs like opioids (painkillers) or benzodiazepine (anti-anxiety medication), a tolerance has been built that causes the body severe, adverse reactions when withheld from the system.  Alcohol is notoriously linked to life-threatening withdrawal reactions, such as seizures, which may cause fatal head trauma, heart attack, stroke, lethal dehydration, or asphyxiation. A medically supervised detox will help your loved one detox in comfort and with dignity, and helps prevent the propensity for relapse during this critical phase. Withdrawal symptoms may begin hours or days after the last use, and can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks depending on the type of drug and level of use. During this withdrawal phase, they are at the highest risk of relapse AND life-threatening symptoms that require 24/7 monitoring.

10 Tips Image 6Invest In Recovery, Not Relapse

The cost of treatment can seem steep, but when compared with long-term use, the cost of treatment is just a fraction of the price of continued drug use. However, choosing an “inexpensive” institution, or cutting down the time a loved one stays at a facility due to the cost, may lead to an early relapse. Staying 90+ days in a treatment facility will offer them the greatest opportunity to reach long-term recovery. Enlist them in an aftercare program following treatment, like a transitional living facility or three-quarter home. This is an excellent way to help them reach the long-term goal, while being supported and encouraged by a close-knit community of other recovering individuals. It will be an investment, but is far less costly than continued relapse or ongoing drug and alcohol use.

Start with 30-Days

You may not be able to convince your loved one to stay in treatment for 3 or more months, but you will likely be able to convince them to commit to 30-days. Most facilities find that the desire to continue treatment will manifest within those first 30-days, and you want your loved one to be able to continue with their treatment plan where they’re at if they do choose to stay, so make sure the facility can accommodate up to 90 days of treatment.

Addiction treatmentChoose A Specialization

Choose a treatment facility that offers specialize programming that caters to your loved ones needs, such as their drug of choice, a co-occurring disorder like PTSD, an eating disorder, social anxiety or a mental disorder, to name a few. This will help them beat their addiction along with the other psychological ailments that have contributed to their substance abuse. Since most people who suffer from addiction also suffer from another co-occurring disorder, choosing treatment at a facility that specializes in their particular ailment(s) will springboard their growth versus being left untreated.

Embrace A Geographical Change

Map of USA with state borders, 3d render

It is important to understand what can and what cannot be achieved with a geographical change for your loved one who is suffering with addiction. May people benefit greatly from a geographic change if they commit to receiving long-term, monitored care at a reputable treatment facility that’s located in a thriving recovery community. There are several located throughout the country, like Florida, Texas and Southern California.  They may also benefit greatly from being separated from family members and friends that have become “triggers” for their use. However, if your loved makes a geographic change simply to leave the environment which has “made them use” without seeking help, it is highly unlikely that their addiction will cease, and they will find themselves in the same addictive pattern wherever they move to. Geographic changes are encouraged when it comes to receiving treatment and/or working a fully committed program of recovery.

Honor New Boundaries

While therapy will be helpful to rebuild the family as a result of your loved one’s addiction, depending on their progress, it may not occur during treatment. If your loved one welcomes family sessions during their stay, take advantage of the clinical services offered at their institution. If this is an important factor, make sure the treatment center offers family programming and therapy. But don’t be discouraged if your loved one opts out. The first few months, and sometimes the first few years is often a time for them to fully understand their journey, and they will likely grow to a point in their recovery where they will be able to initiate therapeutic healing for all.

AddictionEliminate Enabling

Many loved ones feel responsible for helping the addict, especially as it relates to emotional and financial support. It can be impossible to cut them off as a supportive role. While this all comes from a place of love and concern, it’s critical to understand that as long as you are in some way enabling them to continue “running the show”, they are unlikely to feel the pressure to change in the long-term. Shutting off any access to support of their habits will force them to change their ways. The addict must recognize the breadth of their choices and arrive at a place where they have no choice but to initiate positive, responsible changes. As a loved one, you are a critical piece in enabling this change to happen. Also, don’t mistake your generosity for help. Enabling them to continue using is hurting them and may even lead to death. Follow this rule before, during and after treatment to offer the greatest opportunity for your loved one’s long-term success.

Addiction treatment

Someone Else’s Addiction Is Not Your Fault

It’s natural to feel hurt or even responsible for a loved one’s addiction, but it’s important to recognize these are naturally occurring emotions that stem from love. In most cases, for those who have “done all the right things,” they’re addiction has nothing to do with how you have treated them. Holding onto fear and anger for too long can make rebuilding family trust difficult. Support groups like Al-Anon help family and friends accept these feelings while learning how to support an addicted loved one — and themselves — during and following the rehabilitation process. Visit http://www.al-anon.org/ to find a local gathering near you.

Going Home For The Holidays

Home for the holidays

Going home for the holidays can be stressful enough without the pressure of also being in recovery. You are re-introduced to people you have known for years, or your whole life, who likely have the ability to get under your skin even without the subject of addiction in the equation.

There are a lot of situations that may elicit a spiral of emotions, especially if you are from a family of drinkers, or if you expect to be confronted with those who maybe don’t understand your journey, or maybe even people who harbor resentments against you from your drinking or using days. Even just the environment of being home with your family and friends can trigger emotions of your past.

So this year, if you’re headed home for your first sober holiday, or have spent years in recovery, cultivate new traditions and a feeling of serenity by remembering some of these helpful tips.

Create New Traditions

The sensations of being home – the smells, the décor, the people – can activate a flood of emotions, both good and bad, for anyone. It’s normal to feel stressed. If you experience this, or expect to, try and start a new holiday tradition that will empower your life change. Invite other members of your recovery circle to a special pre-holiday gathering, or do the same with a group of friends who you can reminisce around without drinking or using. Beginning new traditions that make you feel comfortable and happy will help to create new memories to look forward to for future holidays.

Be of Love & Service

Nothing will take away your spiritual growth quicker than acting out on your expectations of other’s or their negativity. If you’ve lived away for some time, they may not know what to expect. Prove them all wrong and leave the holiday feeling empowered and with a great sense of gratitude by being of love and service. Offer to help when help is needed. Answer questions they may have or share in the joys of your sobriety. Time and open communication has the remarkable power of helping to change relationships and perceptions. If you’re working an honest program and living in the principles of the 12 steps, your loved ones will gradually let go of negative perceptions and see the authentic, and improved you.

Empathize With Your Family

Relatives can be more difficult than anything to deal with when you’re in recovery, as long-term familial relationships often have naturally born tensions, plus your family members are more likely to have known your behaviors, or have felt the consequences of your actions when you were using. Remember it will take your family longer to recognize and accept your growth. It’s important to empathize with how they’re feeling too, and give them the time and space necessary to see your growth.

Addressing Your Recovery

Many of us have experienced stinging memories of holidays gone by, when we were less than cheerful to be around, or perhaps missed the holidays altogether because of our lifestyle. So deciding to get sober may not be something you readily want to talk about, especially with family and close friends who have known you only during your addiction. Remember that you don’t have to be on the defensive, shut down, or explain your whole story either. Simply saying that you don’t drink any longer is enough to relieve yourself from the built up tension that may have accumulated. Often it is better to be upfront, and authentic about where you are at than to try and talk around the issue.

Don’t feel obligated to explain your journey. Compassionate friends and family members will accept your explanation, whatever it may be as long as it comes from a place of sincerity. Those who do not understand your journey are not entitled to an explanation – you are not required to deliver that. Remember, in this circumstance, now being sober and working a program of recovery, you have your own set of choices. If certain people, situations or conversations are making you feel anxious, then it’s an indicator to find a little quiet space. Go for a walk, maybe with a family member you can talk to. This will help to dissolve the stress of the situation.

Making Amends

This may also be a time you see those who were on your 4th step. If you never made a proper amends, there is no greater feeling than to take a moment and simply say, “If there is anything I have done in the past to hurt you, or to make you feel uncomfortable, I want to take this moment to apologize.” Believe it or not, this simple statement has the power to absolve you of the guilt or resentment both you and the other harbor for one another. They will see, if you are working a solid program of recovery, that your change in character and growth is real.

Dealing with Drinkers

It’s more than likely that there will be drinking at holiday gatherings. Even if the great obsession of drinking has lifted, these occasions may still rattle you. If you recognize that you’re feeling anxious around drinking, reel your emotions back in by leaving the conversation, taking a walk or hanging out with others who are not drinking.

 Remember Your Tools

It’s easy when we are around family members and those we have known most of our lives to be easily coerced into arguing or acting out. These are temperaments you have more than likely worked on suppressing in your sobriety. Don’t let old behaviors, and personalities drag you to a point of acting in a way that does not coexist with your program. Instead, utilize the tools you’ve embraced in recovery to help get you back to a comfortable place.

Plan to visit at least 1 meeting while you’re away. If you’re feeling anxious about visiting a meeting too close to home, perhaps consider one a few towns away. Finding local support is an incredible confidence booster for the occasion, and will help for future holidays. Also, always keep your sponsor in close proximity with a quick phone call once a day. Even leaving a message is empowering enough to start the day confidently. Plan your stay with a few occasions, like visiting friends for coffee or going on a shopping or to a movie. These non-threatening activities are the perfect kinds of gatherings and offer time to catch up.. Also, if you’re active, take the time to exercise: go on a run, visit the gym or take a yoga class. This is not just a time to increase your endorphins, it will help give you head space to meditate and also fill your schedule so you eliminate idle time while away.

Think of your homecoming for the holidays as an opportunity, not an obligation. Letting the fear take over your serenity will limit the growth potential of this moment. Envision leaving the holiday weekend with a sense of accomplishment and pride knowing that you used your program to squash the stress of the occasion. This is one of the joys of recovery, when we can arrive to the occasion being our best selves, and affect the outcome. You cannot control the actions, thoughts or emotions of others, but you can direct their perceptions in order to build a new bridge connecting your loved ones to your new self.