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A Family Disease | 3 Tips for Loved Ones of People Struggling with Addiction

The impact of addiction spreads far beyond the person struggling with it. Too often, those closest to the person suffering are also going through their own struggle as a result, which is why we call addiction a family disease.

If you have a loved one currently in early recovery or active addiction, you may be feeling lost and alone. We want to offer our best advice for how you can get through this incredibly difficult time and come out the other side stronger and better equipped with information.

1) Education

Perhaps even harder than watching a loved one suffer is not being able to understand exactly what they are suffering from. The stigma of addiction has been so persistent that many people still do not understand it for what it is: a disease that creates a chemical imbalance in the brain. You may be watching a loved one continuously misuse substances, causing harm to their own health and creating problems in their personal and professional lives. You may be thinking to yourself: Why don’t they just stop? Why can’t they see that this is a problem?

Learning more about the nature of addiction will help you make sense of your loved one’s behaviors. Knowing more will make it all feel less foreign and overwhelming, and you’ll be able to stop blaming them (or yourself, as people sometimes do). You can also learn about the treatment options that are available so that when the time comes and they are ready to seek help, you will be able to support and guide them. Recovery is a long journey for many people. It often starts with them being in denial about their problem – even though their closest friends and family, looking from the outside, can see it clearly.

2) Comfort & Understanding

After you have taken the time to become educated, you will be able to offer comfort and understanding. It’s important, though, to manage your expectations. You may know a lot more about treatment and recovery and want to immediately enroll your loved one in a program, but their recovery has to start with wanting it for themselves, and their journey will unfold in its own time. Being patient and understanding during this journey with them can be extremely difficult, but simply letting them know that you are there for them will be a huge comfort and support.

You should also remember to show yourself patience and understanding. As much as you may want to be a strength for your loved one, it is undeniable that their struggle can take a big emotional toll. You may even develop your own mental health issues as a result of this difficult process. This is nothing to be ashamed about, just as addiction is nothing to be ashamed about, so make sure you don’t hide the fact that you may be struggling as well. Everyone deserves help and support.

3) Support

Connecting with a mental health professional, an addiction specialist, or with other people who have been through what you have been through (or all three!) can help you work through your personal struggles. Sometimes people are hesitant to seek out support groups and professionals but asking for help can only make you stronger – both for yourself and for the other people in your life.

Having seen firsthand the toll that addiction can take on families, at Spectrum Health Systems we have introduced a virtual family support meeting series in partnership with Magnolia Recovery Resources. It is completely free, open to the public, and led by our addiction treatment team. We want this to be a space where friends, family and caregivers can gather to share their stories, learn more about addiction, and offer each other comfort and understanding. No matter where people are on this journey, they don’t have to go through any part of it alone!

If you or a loved one is struggling with an alcohol or other drug addiction, call Spectrum Health Systems today at 1-877-MyRehab. For more information about working at Spectrum, visit our careers page.

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