How to Support a Family Member or Friend Going Through Substance Abuse

Posted by admin on January 26, 2017

Watching someone you love and care about in the throes of an addiction is incredibly difficult. It may bring up feelings of sadness, frustration, anger, fear and more. What will happen to that person if the addiction continues or worsens? What if that person’s addiction causes irreparable damage to your family, home, finances or life? Many people that have a friend or loved one struggling with addiction often experience both sadness and anger simultaneously but it is important to understand that there are many factors out of control that may be contributing to their addiction. Understanding this and getting educated about addiction will help you support a family member or friend going through addiction.
So often, it is incredibly hard for the non-addict to understand what the addict is “thinking.” Why would they continue to be addicted rather than seek help? Why can’t they just stop? Why can’t they see what they are doing is harmful to themselves and those around them? Don’t they care enough about their friends and family to stop? To understand addiction you must understand brain chemistry. There are three categories of addiction – use, abuse, and dependency. What starts out as use may slowly (or quickly) progress to abuse. And soon, abuse may become dependency. When an addict is in the stage of dependency, the brain has begun to change its biochemistry. Our brain’s function and thoughts release chemicals in our body. When we feel good and relaxed, it is because our body has released chemicals. When we feel fear and anger, our body releases chemicals that cause reactions in our body. As addiction and dependency continues on, particularly for long periods of time, the brain’s structure literally changes shape – holes where gray matter used to be. And those changes can dramatically impact decision making.
When supporting a family member or friend going through addiction, there are a few things you can do, or changes to your approach, that may help improve the situation and better support them to make changes in their lives. First, as previously mentioned, you must educate yourself on addiction. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to understand the situation, understand what might be contributing factors to the addiction, and better support your family member. Further, the more you know, the more likely you will be to have a compassionate approach to your interactions with them. So often, addiction is filled with shame, self-hatred, depression, and fear. When you are compassionate, and you encourage your family member to seek compassionate counseling, they will experience a judgement-free source of support that could give them the courage they need to make a change. As they seek professional behavioral therapy and addiction counseling, it may also be wise for you to seek counseling. A professional counselor will be able to provide you useful tools and a listening ear from an impartial position so that you can feel prepared to support your family member while they experience addiction counseling. For an experienced, knowledgeable, judgement-free addiction counselor in the Phoenix or Scottsdale area, contact Diebold Behavioral Therapy.

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