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Help for a Loved One

What to Do with the Addict in your Life

Are you one of the millions of Americans dealing with an addicted loved one? Do you feel like you really should do something, but aren’t sure what to do? Read on to learn the steps you should take to help your addicted loved one.


  1. Breathe. If you think your loved one is on drugs and you are even remotely considering doing something about it (and yes, you should do something about it), you are in for a roller coaster of a ride. But before you jump right into the action, take a moment to relax and take a deep breath. Think the situation through clearly, and come up with a plan before you confront your loved one.


  1. Do a double take. You might be positive your loved one is an addict. Even so, it won’t hurt to take a moment to observe the person. What signs are they showing? What substances are they using, and how can you tell? Are they dealing with other things in their life that would cause these symptoms, such as an illness or a lot of stress? Occasionally, things like illness or stress can cause some of the same symptoms as addiction. However, families and close friends are rarely wrong when they suspect their loved one has an addiction. In general, if you suspect something, there probably is something. Still, it is good to do some investigating before you jump right in with accusations.


Below are common signs of addiction. If your loved one is exhibiting these signs without explanation, it is time to do something about it.

  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Irritability
  • Changes in appearance
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Changes in friends
  • Financial trouble
  • Deterioration of performance at work or school
  • Legal trouble
  1. Send your pride packing. This is not a time to be proud. This is not about you – yes, the addict has deeply hurt you; yes, your reputation will suffer because of it; and yes, you might have to be the one to tell family and friends about the problem you’ve been helping hide – this is about the addict and their need for treatment. It will be difficult for you, but if your loved one can get clean and sober and stay that way in the end, all the other details in life regarding your reputation will work themselves out. Don’t be too full of yourself to help your loved one get the treatment they need.


  1. Get some perspective. You wouldn’t send your loved one into a medical procedure like surgery without first doing some research and knowing who will be treating him or her, so don’t send your loved one into addiction rehab blindly either. Do some research. Have your loved one evaluated by a doctor and find a program with the level of care, philosophy, and cost that is right for your family.


  1. Put your big boy pants on and start talking. Now’s the time – do not put it off any longer. Confront your loved one. Be honest, but be kind. Your goal here is not to piss the person off so much that they turn their back on you and refuse to get help. You need to be gentle and understanding, and above all let the person know you care about them which is why you want them to get help. Many addicts have a hard time being told they have an addiction and need help. If this is the case with your loved one, you might need the help of intervention services to reach them.


  1. Follow it through. Don’t have that conversation with your loved one and then assume they are telling you the truth when they say they will get treatment. You know from personal experience that addicts are liars. Addicts also change their minds quickly when it comes to getting help. Sure, they might mean it one day when they say they want to get help, but by the time the next day rolls around, they will have changed their mind back. You need to be quick about enrolling the person in a treatment program and get them there as soon as they agree to it. There cannot be any changing of the mind.


  1. Pat yourself on the back. If you’ve gotten your addicted loved one into rehab, you can congratulate yourself, but only for a minute. Recovery is a long, difficult process, and your loved one will need support along the way. You can and should participate in therapy with the person, meet with treatment staff, and do what needs to be done in your own life to prepare for the person’s return home. It’s not going to be easy from here on out. There will be frustrations, challenging days, and possibly even relapse, but what your loved one needs now is someone who will stand behind them and help them stay focused on sobriety even after treatment is done.


You’re loved one needs you and is lucky to have someone like you who will step up and do something about this addiction. Whatever you do, don’t back down from this very important task that’s been handed to you (or dumped in your lap). We know you can do it.