Stay healthy! This is the common message we get nowadays from our friends on social media. What do they mean by this? What does being “healthy” mean?
Being addicted to prohibited drugs or substances may be usually viewed as an individual struggle. The person responsible for using the substance may only think of his own and never think of his or her loved ones. The belief that it can initially alleviate their feelings of loneliness may have pushed them to use the substance. Or even peers can influence them in doing so. But one should always remember that people surrounding the victim are even more devastated once they know what is happening. Giving on to substance addiction certainly damages the family, including your parents, children, or your spouse.
In response to the growing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country, the Philippine government, through Proclamation 922, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on March 8, 2020, placed the entire Philippines under a state of a public health emergency. The government imposed an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon and other provinces, which was effectively a total lockdown, restricting the movement of the population except for necessity, work, and health circumstances.
It is a normal human reaction, those who can still think clearly, to stop something when it is destroying their lives. I guess, in a way, this COVID-19 thing had a positive effect on my chronic smoker boyfriend because he had to stop smoking. Oh no, he did not contract the virus. Bless him, no. Knock on wood. He did develop another disease which was serious as well. And for that, he had to stop smoking.
If someone you love has suffered or is suffering from alcoholism, it may be difficult for you to meet halfway in dealing with things. People who suffer from excessive alcohol use are unable to control the amount they drink. You need to approach them with deep understanding and empathy.
You also need to look out for warning signs. “[T]he trouble with warning signs is that we often don’t recognize them at the time we most need to. With something like addiction that takes some time to develop, we may already be steps down the path before we realize we’re even on it,” Peg O’Connor, PhD, wrote. They may seem insignificant at first, “however, if they become more common and routine over a period of time, they warrant further attention.”
Joshua Gowin, PhD, wrote, “[B]ehavioral researchers sought to understand the physiological and psychological effects of drinking. Drinking profoundly alters mood, arousal, behavior, and neuropsychological functioning.”
While it’s true that the fate of an alcoholic is in his own hands, as a loved one, you can still take steps to help them break free from alcoholism. The following may give you ideas on how to help an alcoholic find the way back to sobriety:
As someone close to the alcoholic, you might be mad or sad at the situation. However, do not be careless in communicating with them. Both of you may find striking up a conversation uncomfortable, but voicing out your concern is necessary for them to know that you sincerely want to help. Bringing up their drinking problems carefully in the conversation can help make them understand where your concern is coming from.
Keep in mind that alcoholism is a disorder alcoholics didn’t want. Thus, they need someone who will continuously be on their side to guide them.
Do Not Lecture Them
When you reach out to an alcoholic, do not impose on them. Shaming them and saying they’re at fault will only make them more distant, leading them to rely more on drinking. Outright judgment can also lower their self-esteem.
Be careful in choosing the words you say to them. Avoid harshly condemning them for their behaviors, as it can lead to denial and resistance, which will do more harm. If the situation allows, you can suggest they get professional help. However, you must be extra careful in bringing the topic up as the thought can hit them negatively.
Do Not Be An Enabler
Remember that you’re there to help them, not to tolerate their wrong actions. Being an enabler means letting them get off the hook and continue drinking. If you see signs that you’re already making excuses for their behavior, you might already be enabling them. If they think that they’ll get out bad situations because of their drinking behavior, then they may end up taking advantage of that.
Enabling them is tantamount to allowing their drinking disorder to continue. It can also mean doing things for them which they are capable of accomplishing. If someone keeps on taking on an alcoholic’s responsibilities, they will never learn to get back up on their own.
Offer Assistance In Finding Help
If the alcoholic is ready to receive help, offer your assistance in finding ways to help them. Giving them a starting point in their recovery process will help lessen their worries about it. Review different treatment programs to decide which will be a good fit for the alcoholic. They can enroll in recovery support groups, treatment centers, or therapy sessions. Having these choices ready for them can make the way to sobriety more manageable for them.
Be with them throughout their recovery process. Showing that you care can help put their mindset back on track. Always remember that having people who support them is vital for their continued and long-term rehabilitation.
Alcoholics fall into alcoholism for different reasons. As a loved one, it may be challenging to face the situation. But if you’re in a position to help, it will be worth all the effort once they gain sobriety and get back to society once more.
“Family members easily become codependent with the alcoholic. Without help, that codependency follows the same downward trajectory of alcoholism,” wrote Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT. “There is hope, however, and there is help for the addict and for family members.”
The road to recovery can be a long and challenging journey for people struggling from substance abuse. That is why apart from the necessary interventions, they will need the full support and utmost care from their loved ones.
Family and friends have vital roles in helping recovering drug addicts get back on their feet. However, family member and friends should also know the proper way to approach and reach out to their loved ones who are coping.
Understanding Substance Abuse
Before families and friends can help their loved ones recover from substance abuse, it is best to educate themselves about the addiction. For instance, you may show them BetterHelp articles or videos. That may show them that not every individual who uses drugs immediately falls into substance abuse. However, for those who do, it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when the addiction started.
Various risk factors can cause substance abuse. People with a history of addiction in the family are most likely to inherit the inclination to drugs. Having mental health disorders and traumatic experiences of abuse can lead someone to cope with drugs too. Apart from that, the early use of drugs, primarily through smoking and injection, may be hard to quit with the frequency of use.
Once a person begins to practice drug abuse, there will be manifestations in both the physical and behavioral aspects. Some of the symptoms you want to look out for are as follows:
- Red or glassy eyes and runny or stuffy nose
- Excessive money spending
- Changing sleeping patterns
- Loss of interest in activities
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Mood swings
How To Reach Out To A Loved One
Schedule therapy sessions and connect with treatment programs.
Distant family members and friends are the last things that a recovering person needs. Engaging in support groups and therapy programs can help families and friends reconnect and understand their loved ones. These appointments are a safe space to discuss the condition and the proper ways to cope with it.
“Family-based intervention programs address the whole family as a system, teaching appropriate parenting and family management skills. These programs are the most effective way of preventing or treating adolescent substance abuse and delinquency ,” Joseph Nowinski Ph.D. says.
Spend time together.
It is necessary to spend valuable time with a recovering loved one. Being alone makes a person stressed and lonely, which may encourage them to fall back to their addiction. Staying in touch through activities like cooking, going out, finding new hobbies, or simply hanging out together can go a long way.
Make sure they get regular exercise.
Short exercises every day can have a lot of positive benefits for a person. Working out and engaging in physical activities can reduce levels of anxiety and depression. Exercise can be a healthy outlet for all the stress that an individual is feeling.
Stick to a sleeping schedule.
Sleeping problems can have adverse effects such as depressive moods and high levels of anger, sadness, and exhaustion. By creating and sticking to a sleep schedule, the patient can condition his or her brain to rest at the designated time.
Understand that recovery is an ongoing process.
Coming back from substance addiction is not an easy task. Being a support system means being patient with your loved ones as they make mistakes and adapt to the changes happening to them. Continue being involved in their transitioning, especially as they struggle.
“When it comes to kicking an addiction, the only way that a patient can really change is if they want to modify behavior,” Dr. Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC shares. “Without motivation to take action or seek out treatment, then whatever tactic put into place to solve the addiction will fail over time when the individual relapses,” she added.
Be careful about how you talk to them.
Even in stressful moments, family and friends should make sure that they don’t enable addictive behaviors. Be sensitive with their emotions. It won’t help to argue, threaten, or lecture your loved one.
The best way you can support a loved one with substance abuse problems is by encouraging them throughout their journey. It won’t always be easy, but it will be critical to their recovery.
People assume that alcoholism only affects the alcoholic themselves, and dealing with addiction in alcohol is generally not harming anyone else. That is not true. In fact, living in a household where a parent is alcoholic impacts children’s lives in a colossal way.
Unfortunately, the impact of growing up around alcoholism can be so severe that it can last forever. Alcoholism also burdens the people around the alcoholic, especially children. They often carry the wound associated with alcoholic parents even into their adulthood and, worse, into their future family.
According to Steven Gans, MD, “Because alcohol use is normalized in families with alcoholism, children can often struggle to distinguish between good role models and bad ones.”
If children live in an environment with an alcoholic, they might suffer from ongoing and lifetime effects that may impact their behavior, view in life, and mental or emotional state.
Living with an alcoholic adult, especially a parent, can take a heavy toll on children. They may often wonder what their day is going to look like. Children might be anxious regarding what problems might arise and what situation they will go home to after school. Will they be yelled at? Or worse, will their parents harm them?
“Kids do worry,” said Lana Stern, PhD. “There’s a lot of anxiety children experience when they have an alcoholic parent because the children don’t know what to expect at home and if the parent is going to be sober.”
Often, a household with an alcoholic is chaotic and does not feel like home. No children would ever feel comfortable sharing stories about their families or have friends over their house, especially with an alcoholic parent. Most of the time, alcoholics don’t get embarrassed anymore with their drinking habits. They may even possibly drink in front of their children’s visitors, which will lead to more embarrassment.
“Shame is the feeling that you’re bad or wrong and unworthy of love. There are so many things that alcoholic families don’t talk about – to each other and especially to the outside world. These secrets breed shame. When there are things so awful that they can’t be talked about, you feel there is something awful about you and that you’ll be judged and cast away,” wrote Sharon Martin, LCSW.
No children would ever want to grow up in a household with alcoholic parents. It is likely that these children nurse some anger inside them, directed at at their parents, the situation they have, or the impact of alcohol in general.
The children of an alcoholic may feel isolated and alone. This situation is dangerous, especially when they feel like no one understands what they are going through. It may lead to depression which also causes suicidal and harmful thoughts.
Issues Related To Alcoholic Parents
The following are some issues between parents with alcohol addiction and their children.
- Lack of communication
- Little to no structure in the household relationship
- Conflict among family members
- Terrible parenting
- Financial concerns
- Emotional confusion
- Unpredictable personality
- Child abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Physical abuse
- Children’s exposure to alcohol
Helping An Alcoholic Parent
Having a parent with alcohol addiction causes a lot of stress already. However, their children can do some things that will help address their parents’ drinking problem.
- Know what exactly the problem (alcoholism) is.
- Communicate and be honest.
- Support them physically and emotionally.
- Get professional help from platforms like BetterHelp.
- Keep an eye for relapse.
- Help them build good habits.
Children raised by a parent with alcohol addiction are more prone to emotional neglect, psychological problems, behavioral problems, social issues, and emotional stress. Growing up in a home with an alcoholic can be a lonely, scary, and confusing experience. They should be looking up to loving and hardworking parents, not to drunk and problematic parents. Children should be nurtured, especially during their learning stage, and they should not have to live with the unpleasant behaviors that alcohol can cause.
People who use drugs are people too. Whether you use drugs or know someone who does, harm reduction is an approach you can use to prevent the adverse effects of drug use and misuse. The stigma against people who use drugs remains strong, and providing support for people at their most vulnerable becomes even more critical.
What Is Harm Reduction Exactly?
Harm reduction exists in our everyday lives. Harm reduction involves the implementation of practical ideas and strategies that aim to minimize the negative consequences of a particular behavior. It can include the simplest things, such as seatbelts, hard hats, and sunscreen. All these protect us from harm in everyday situations, such as driving, working in construction sites, and going out in the sun. It stops people from being injured or dying from something preventable.
You may also apply harm reduction to drug use and misuse. Harm reduction focuses on positive change through a range of health and social services and practices. These apply to users of illicit drugs like marijuana and methamphetamine as well as licit substances such as alcohol and tobacco.
How Is Harm Reduction Different?
The most common approach to drug misuse is the punitive response or placing people in jail. Coincidentally, some people who use drugs commit crimes. However, this does not mean all people who use drugs are criminals.
Harm reduction stands in contrast to incarceration measures. It is grounded in the belief in and respect for the rights of people who use drugs. As such, it involves working with people without judgment, coercion, discrimination, or requiring that they stop using drugs altogether before supporting them.
How Can You Practice Harm Reduction?
How does harm reduction proceed in the context of drug and alcohol use? The primary goals of harm reduction are to keep people alive and to encourage positive change in their lives. These approaches are facilitative instead of coercive. On the personal and communal levels, the simplest form of harm reduction is providing people with information on safer-use practices for drugs.
Safer-use practices do not promote drug use. Instead, they advise users on how to reduce the risks associated with drug use, particularly contracting and passing on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Here are some ways to keep safe:
- Choose not to use. If you are not yet dependent, avoid using your drug of choice for more extended periods. Letting your body rest by not using even for a few hours or a few days will help keep you from getting hooked.
- Shoot safer. Pace your dosing according to the strength of the stash. Shooting into the veins in your arms and hands is safer than blindly going for your groin or your neck. Rotate sites and shoot downstream whenever possible. Always use new, clean needles.
- Choose safer ways. Ingesting the drugs by mixing them in food like brownies is safer than smoking. Smoking is safer than shooting.
- Less is more. Decide how much you want to use. Limit yourself to a certain amount. Leave the rest of your money at home. Ask a friend for help to remind you of your use limit. Doing so will keep you accountable and help you avoid overdosing from the drug’s toxic effects.
Harm reduction keeps you safe. Try your best to lessen your use with the help of your support system and a professional.
Drug addiction is something that a therapist would genuinely want to address. That is due to its ongoing adverse outcomes on its victim as well as the people around. However, the process of stopping it is still a struggle until today. Though some people are on their way to recovery, there are also those other individuals who can’t seem to fight the mental condition. With that, the solution begins to depend on awareness and self-trust. But are those enough?
In terms of addressing the long-time issue of drug addiction, there is a need for determining the apparent root cause. The whole idea of the guidelines is not just getting rid of the habit of taking drugs, but also to liberate ourselves on its other drug-related addiction symptoms as well. These include drug cravings, loneliness, feeling powerless, moodiness, bad temper, and so on. By that, let us not ignore advice on how to stop drug addiction forever.
According to Scot Thomas, M.D., “When an individual is treated for addiction, they receive a combination of interventions, such as individual therapy, group counseling, family therapy, and medication, if applicable. These interventions are aimed at rectifying drug-using and maladaptive behaviors and replacing them with healthy and positive behaviors.”
“I Don’t Need Help.”
One of the significant reasons why it is entirely difficult to address drug addiction is due to a person’s in denial mentality. As you may see in BetterHelp articles, here is this sense of belief that because a lot of people are doing it, they are also entitled to try the habit. And as other individuals don’t feel and suffer from medical complications; they will never experience and suffer from it too. But not all persons are the same, though. There are those persons who know they are addicted to drugs but are ashamed of admitting it.
“Getting help can look like talking to your doctor, a mental health professional, or a loved one,” says Arnold Lieber, MD. “You can also enlist the support of strangers by attending a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous and asking for local recommendations.”
We get that people are scared sometimes of how things would turn out for them. But with different cases of drug addiction, one must look into a positive resolution. An individual who has a mental condition should acknowledge the need for help. He must be able to learn to accept and forgive his mistakes so he can better move forward in treating himself. Yes, the process will require a vast amount of courage. But there is a guarantee it will be all worth it in the end.
“I Can’t Stop It.”
“Addiction should be understood as a chronic recurring illness that requires treatment,” says Alan Leshner, MD.
A person’s willpower is the only key to disperse any amount of negativity in his head. Since drug addiction often starts with stress and anxiety, there is a need for mental conditioning. However, the process of mindfulness control seems impossible, especially to those people who suffer from severe depression and trauma. With that, they find it hard to look for alternative ways to address their suffering. Even if there are tons of distractions to choose from, a person with a drug addiction condition always ends up deciding what’s more convenient, although it is damaging.
But to end the root of the problem together with all its symptoms, one must target the area where it hurts the most – emotional aspect. That is because drug addiction comes from the combination of a lot of emotional instability. So for a person to be able to understand his situation, he must learn to control his feelings. No, it does not have to be in an instant. Continuous learning can also make a huge impact.
“I Am Better Off This Way”
Of course, no one wants to feel pain. That is the reason why people often look for ways to get better. At most times, these people know there is something wrong but would instead choose to stay silent about their situation. Perhaps they don’t like the idea of how others would judge them for the things they do. In some cases, most of these individuals are better in hiding their drug addictions behind a mask. But when the mask cracks, it becomes a dead end for them.
None of us deserves to feel pain, and no one deserves to live a life they thought is okay for them when it is not. Recovery is a choice, and the only thing that pulls it to successful progress is through determination. One must find a way to deal with it by building a wall of control around it. It should involve lifestyle changes, social development, and connection, mental strength, emotional growth, as well as physical and fitness goal.
The way the brain functions is way too complicated, especially when it is with a mental condition. There is no guarantee when it will get back on its track. However, if there is proper guidance from professional experts, emotional support from people who genuinely care, and self-awareness, the process of drug addiction recovery will show progress eventually. And those little tiny voices on a person’s head will soon disappear.