What can I do?

 It is hard to know what to do when you suspect that someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder.  One of the first things you need to come to grips with is that you can't control your loved one's addiction.  It will exhaust your strength and hope.  There are answers to your questions and steps that you can take.  Give us a call.  We can help you take care of yourself and your family.  If you are not sure where to start, read on to learn more.

Three questions to ask yourself:

1.  What does your gut say?

No one knows your loved one like you do.  When they have changed, you notice.  Especially when those changes stick.  More often than not, your intuition is right.  When observing a spouse, child, relative or friend, you can see the common signs of a substance use disorder.  It is better to err on the side of caution.

2.  Are you seeing signs of withdrawal?

It is not uncommon for people with an addiction to try to stop on their own.  If a sudden illness comes on that mirrors the signs of withdrawal, then there is a valid reason for concern.  If the illness suddenly goes away, maybe they started to re-use rather than go through the discomfort.  Withdrawal from some substances can be life-threatening or need medical monitoring to be safe.

3.  Could it be a mental health issue?

For many people, mental health and substance use disorders go hand in hand.  Is someone drinking because they are depressed?  Or are they depressed because they are drinking?  But it is like the chicken & the egg.  It doesn't matter which came first. They can create complex issues for a person to try and untangle on their own.  It is another indication that professional help is the right way to go.

Three things to do:   

1.  Lovingly let go.

If you want your loved one to get better, one thing you must come to terms with about their substance use disorder is this:  You didn't cause it.  You can't control it.  You can't cure it.  The only part that you can control is addressing the concern with your loved one.  They are responsible for changing their behaviors.

2.  Stay open.

Substance use disorders are a progressive disease.  With continued use, your loved one's brain becomes more and more compromised to the irrational and subconscious workings of cravings.  It can't be controlled.  Your loved one is not doing this to intentionally hurt you, so try not to judge them.  If your loved one was having a heart attack, you would help them, not blame them.  Substance use disorders are very similar to heart disease or diabetes.  They are medical conditions that are all behaviorally driven.  And if left untreated, they are all life-threatening. 

3.  Gently, but firmly and consistently, begin the conversation.

This is often a well kept secret in families.  It comes with a lot of fear; not sure you have the right words.  However, it is important to start establishing the boundaries and asking the hard questions.  Keep your expectations low at first.  Denial is common.  Understand that is part of the disease.  Your loved one's brain has been altered, which includes decreasing their motivation and ability to recognize the severity of their struggle.  Here are some helpful tips:

- Talk to them when they are clean/sober and calm.
- Be honest, caring and clear about your concerns.
- Focus on the impact of their use on you, the family or other things they care about.
- Have a support system in place.  Maybe someone joins you in the conversation.
- Don't bring up the issue when you are upset. 
- Don't become their therapist and try to change them yourself.
- Call Ten16 and let the professionals help.