Even if you don’t use drugs—or, for that matter, have ever seen them up close in person—the epidemic is closer to home than you might realize. Around the country, people are succumbing to the horrors of drug addiction. In fact, 175 Americans die every day from drug overdoses. If you have a family member (a parent, sibling, child, cousin, etc.) struggling with drug addiction, then you may find yourself in a difficult and, most likely, uncomfortable situation.
After all, you want to help them, but, at the same time, you don’t want to enable them. You also don’t want to feel like you’re being taken advantage of, which is a common sentiment among those who go out of their way to help drug abusers. Yet, there are ways that you can help them that are appropriate. Here are four tips on how to help a drug-addicted family member.
People who are addicted to drugs are often treated as pariahs by society. Feeling this shame isn’t motivating. It only causes them to feel like they have nothing positive to offer the world. While their addiction might have caused them to do bad things, that doesn’t necessarily make them bad people. The disease of drug addiction should be acknowledged.
However, be careful to not act like you are any better than your family member because everyone is flawed. Instead, find a way to connect with them by explaining a change that you had to make in your own life and how you’ve benefited from them. Then, discuss with them how their life could be bettered by seeking change and stepping away from the drug life. This is a starter conversation, so don’t expect them to go cold turkey and to change overnight. All the same, though, it’s a very much needed conversation to have.
Help them with Treatment
Recovering from drug addiction is not as simple as one declaring that they’re kicking drugs for good. If your family member wants to get sober, they need professional treatment. Help them with obtaining rehab services, either inpatient or outpatient. Some will need additional help, such as being prescribed opioid withdrawal medication. Do your best to assist them out with anything. It can be difficult for people who are addicted to drugs to ask for help in getting better, so consider it progress if they’re willing to do so.
Set Ground Rules
Your family member needs help, but they also need guidance. When they make a commitment to stop using drugs, it needs to be one that sticks. To ensure this, they need to get the other aspects of their life in order. Help them to get a job and housing if they need it. Should they be living with you, give them specific expectations and explain the consequences for not following them. If holding down a job isn’t something that they’re able to do, look into career counseling or a job training program.
Listen to Them
You have no right to speak for your family member. However, suggestions are fine, but they need to be done after letting them speak their mind first. If you’re constantly interrupting them or delegitimizing their experiences, you’re going to seem hostile and unsympathetic. This may cause them to distance themselves away from you and the help that you could get them. Give them the opportunity to speak their mind and treat them as the person they are—don’t talk down to them. How you communicate with them could be the difference between whether they rebel and continue in their lifestyle or if they accept your help and try to make those first few steps towards improving their life.
If you have a family member struggling with addiction, you need to be there for them. While it’s ultimately up to them to solve their problem, they will have a much easier time if they know you’re there for them. Work with them patiently to help them obtain the resources they need to get clean.