What can families do?

It is hard to know what to do when you suspect someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder.

One of the first things you must overcome 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 unsure where to start, read on to learn more or explore our information for families.

Man and child reading on a tablet

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. Mainly when those changes stick.

More often than not, your intuition is correct. 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 mirrors the signs of withdrawal, there is a valid reason for concern. If the disease suddenly disappears, maybe they start 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 and 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 you can 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 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 diseases. With continued use, your loved one’s brain becomes increasingly compromised to cravings’ irrational and subconscious workings. It can’t be controlled.

Your loved one is not doing this to hurt you intentionally, so try not to judge them. If your loved one had 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.

Substance issues are 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 boundaries and asking 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, decreasing their motivation and ability to recognize the severity of their struggle.

Here are some helpful tips for beginning a conversation:

  • 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 will join you in the conversation.
  • Don’t bring up the issue when you are upset.
  • Don’t become their therapist or try to change them yourself.
  • Call Ten16 and let the professionals help.

Talk to our caring staff about how to help your loved one

No family is born with the knowledge of how to deal effectively with substance use disorders. Please reach out to us so that we can support you.