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Learning about addiction is scary. That’s the simple truth. But if you want to be a responsible family member or friend who comes from a place of knowledge – not just emotional reactions – learning is a must. To find out four good ways to start, read on.
#1 Stick to the Facts
If you think your loved one may be abusing or addicted to a particular substance, try to get the facts for yourself. Be aware that well-meaning friends may be eager to share their opinions — and you should take these with a grain of salt. They may direct you to do one thing or another. However, even if they have experienced a similar situation, remember that everyone’s issues are different, and complex dynamics come into play. What works for one person may not work for you. The bottom line is, opinions and facts are different. Stick to the facts, as hearsay and anecdotal data could cloud your head with misinformation.
#2 Get Smart
Knowledge is power. The more you know about the characteristics and traits of your loved one’s addiction, the more confidently you can speak, should the opportunity to have a conversation arise. Doing your own research protects you from being caught off guard or swept up in emotions. Several resources that can jumpstart your research include the following:
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides locations of residential, outpatient and hospital inpatient treatment programs for drug addiction and alcoholism throughout the country. This information is also accessible by calling 1-800-662-HELP.
- Mental Health America is an alliance of nonprofit, self-help support organizations for patients and families dealing with a variety of mental disorders.
- Faces & Voices of Recovery is an advocacy organization for individuals in long-term recovery that strategizes on ways to reach out to the medical, public health, criminal justice and other communities to promote and celebrate recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.
- The American Society of Addiction Medicine is a society of physicians aimed at increasing access to addiction treatment. Their Web site has a nationwide directory of addiction medicine professionals.
- The DrugPubs Research Dissemination Center provides booklets, pamphlets, fact sheets and other informational resources on drugs, drug abuse and treatment.
- The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provides information on alcohol, alcohol use and treatment of alcohol-related addiction.
One word of caution: Be careful about going overboard and doing too much digging. Get the basic facts because descriptions, symptoms, side effects and treatment of certain drugs will not change regardless of how many sources you uncover. Get in and get out. Otherwise, you could be dragged down in a sea of minutiae that will prevent you from focusing on more productive steps.
#3 Be Discrete
Think twice before discussing your struggles, or a loved one’s addiction issues, with friends, certain family members or relatives. It could put an unnecessary strain on your relationships, especially if you don’t take their advice. Also, friendships can be precarious and delicate. Although your friend might ache for your pain and suffering, if that’s all you end up talking about it may become too much of a burden for the friend to handle.
Discretion also has protective benefits. Information regarding your loved one’s addiction could prove detrimental if it finds its way to the workplace, or is brought into other relationships. Remember, no matter how upset you are, or how desperate you feel to unload your burden, be respectful of your loved one’s privacy. Even if they give you permission to discuss their situation openly or with certain individuals, it may still be best to err on the side of caution.
#4 Find Support to Keep Your Side of the Street Clean
Connecting to a recovery community can make facing a child’s drug or alcohol problem feel less overwhelming. Breaking isolation by reaching out is a powerful tool to help every person whose life has been touched by addiction.
If your world takes on a different dynamic because your loved one continues to maintain his addiction or because he is working toward a clean and sober lifestyle, issues will arise during the recovery process. You might consider obtaining the help of a professional addiction counselor, not just a marriage and family therapist. It is often beneficial to seek a counselor who has had a personal journey in this field and can relate from “been there-done that” experience as well as professional training.
Help for Addiction
If you or someone you love struggles with addiction, we can help. Admissions coordinators are available at our toll-free, 24-hour helpline to guide you to wellness. They can discuss your options with you and help you explore affordable, effective treatment plans. Don’t go it alone when support is just one phone call away. Start your recovery now.