How Can I Help an Addict, Even If It’s Me?
Addiction is insidious and evil. Left to themselves, and with enough resources, an addict will spiral downwards until they are either jailed or die. The process can take years. It can go in stops and starts. But eventually everything good will be sacrificed on the altar of “Just one more time.” Even the richest and most famous are susceptible to the gradual sinking into the bottomless hole of addiction. Success is no protection. Education is no armor. The most noble and the best among us can tumble down the slope into the abyss.
The first step to stop the process is to admit there is a problem. This has to be an honest and clear admission – not something I say today and deny tomorrow. Denial is so bound up in addiction that it has become a cliché. Not only the addict denies, but their loved ones also ignore the realities. A mother, father, or spouse doesn’t want to face the possibility that things won’t just work out on their own.
What loved ones typically do is punish the user, thinking that somehow that will wake them up. The only thing accomplished is that the addict gets a bit better at concealing their habit. They will lie, cheat and steal to avoid the consequences and keep using.
Punishment isn’t the answer. Help is needed. We know a great deal more in the new millennium about how to treat addiction than we knew even ten years ago. That is why admitting the problem is so important. Step one is admission, and the next step is to seek real help.
Knowledge is power
If you or a loved one is addicted, it is time to get educated. Not all addictions are the same. Some require serious medical intervention.
The Internet is a good source of information. It doesn’t replace professional help, but it can keep you from making obvious mistakes. One of the easiest things to do is to find an online support group or forum where you can ask questions. There are many recovering addicts out there who are ready and willing to listen. It is a powerful thing to talk to someone who has traveled the same road.
Join a support group
Whether online or offline, a support group can be an essential link to a supportive community. One of the obstacles to recovery is a feeling of isolation. There are support groups for addicts as well as for those who care about or live with addicts. Most are free to attend. An anonymous group will give needed encouragement and support.
Seek professional help
Addiction is a medical condition. When the habit has become well rooted in someone’s life, it is extremely hard to simply change. The path to recovery requires a guide. Modern rehabilitation involves withdrawal followed by therapy to teach the skills needed to stay on track. Your health insurance may cover most or some of the cost. There are medications that can help with some addictions. Professional therapy can expose underlying problems that are triggering addictive behavior.
Don’t give up
Studies show that professional treatment followed by group meetings is the best chance for real change. Even so, many addicts will relapse. Some will relapse and need in-patient treatment many times before they get any long-term recovery. But the alternative - untreated addiction – is too dire to simply surrender. It is a mistake to think you’ve plumbed the depths of how bad an addiction can get. Without a serious and continuing effort, it will get worse… and then still worse.
A wise, recovering alcoholic once put it this way, “The disease of addiction is like riding an elevator down into hell. The elevator is slow, but it only goes down. What I wish people could realize… the thing their addiction tries to hide from them… is that you can get off the elevator any time. You don’t have to ride it all the way down.”