1. Understand that addiction is a disease
Despite scientific evidence that addiction is a disease, many people believe addiction is a choice, a moral failing or a weakness. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a “chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her.”
Furthermore, over time, an addict’s brain goes through physical changes that impairs their self control and afflict his or her ability to resist impulses.
By thinking a person is weak or lacking willpower to stop using contributes to the stigma surrounding addiction, and often impedes an addict from seeking out the treatment they desperately need. Do your best to show compassion for your loved one, because just like you don’t choose cancer, you don’t choose to be an addict. They will be more likely to get treatment if they know you’re not judging them negatively
2. Educate yourself about addiction
It’s common for family and friends of a person suffering from addiction to feel frustration, confusion, anger, and like they are to blame. But learning as much as possible about the disease can help ease anxiety. If a loved one got news of a cancer diagnosis, you would likely research all you could about the type and the prognosis. Addiction is no different.
Support groups and recovery meetings held by organizations such as Al-Anon, Alateen and Nar-Anon can help friends and family members deepen their understanding of addiction by recounting personal experiences, letting them know that there is hope, and you don’t have to be in this struggle alone.
3. Seek professional counseling
Both individual and family therapy are a valuable tool for improving communication and invigorating balance in the family dynamic by giving the family a safe place to express their feelings. Family therapy is also considered preventative counseling for the children of addicts, giving them knowledge to help them avoid succumbing to the disease themselves.
4. Evaluate your relationship with the addict
Look at your own behavior, and that of other family and friends, are you making excuses or avoiding discussions about the problem or recovery? Adapting to an addict’s behavior can enable the addict avoid the consequences they are facilitating with their drug/alcohol use. Recovery meetings often teach family members how to “detach with love” which is a tool to detach oneself from the person’s disease to avoid the emotional distress it can cause. Detaching with love encourages those adapting to an addict’s behavior to stop making excuses, and allow the addict to make mistakes, gaining the opportunity to learn from them.
5. Take time for yourself
It’s common for people with a loved one suffering from addiction to put the addict’s needs before their own. But it’s important to take care of yourself, emotionally and physically. You need regular exercise, enough sleep and a healthy diet. Running and yoga are both low-maintenance exercises that offer countless benefits, including reducing stress and symptoms of depression.
Running can also curb addiction and aid in recovery. There are thousands of individuals in recovery that have taken up running, and there are several reasons why recovering addicts run. If your loved one is currently in recovery, maybe encourage them to train with you for an event, or become Runwell advocates and raise funds to help others struggling with addiction.