Family members and friends are also affected by drug use. Therefore, aside from getting a loved one into a treatment program, it is important that family and friends have a good understanding of drug use and addiction and so they can take care of their own health as well. By giving equal importance to their well-being, family and friends can provide the love and support the drug user needs to change his/her life and heal.
Here are 10 tips:
1.) Learn more about drug use and addiction.
Education can help families escape understand better and avoid seeking something or someone to blame. Knowing more about drugs use and addiction should help family and friends overcome anger and resentment about a loved one’s addiction. There are many resources that can help families learn about addiction either online or in bookstores.
2.) Seek out and connect with others who can help.
It may not be easy to live with or support someone who uses drugs. Connecting with others especially those who are in support programs can help. Support groups or support programs can provide a safe space where family members can learn, discuss and cope.
3.) Participate in family sessions.
Spouses, siblings and parents of drug users often experience many of the consequences of their loved one’s substance use. They blame themselves, the addicted loved one for their unhappiness. This can hinder a family from getting help. Family sessions are designed to give everyone a chance to feel heard. It can help family members understand themselves and each other. These sessions can help family members work through conflict in a healthy way.
4.) Eat as a family.
Eating as a family allows everyone to reconnect especially after a stressful day. Each meal helps build upon the work done during family sessions. Eating together can promote a sense of common understanding and togetherness. Making the meal together or cleaning up afterwards can increase the benefits of eating together. Eating as a family at least once a week can have a significant impact.
5.) Understanding of what to expect-and when to expect it.
When a drug user enters treatment and starts his/her recovery journey, everyone feels hopeful and excited that things will get better. However, changing behaviors and habits can take a long time and some can be frustrated with the recovery process and become disappointed.
When relapse happens, it is helpful to remember that relapse does not mean failure. Relapse is a normal part of recovery. It is therefore important that family members as well as their loved one manage expectations.
6.) Do things that bring personal joy.
It is easier to management expectations when one takes the time to relax and enjoy something that is fulfilling. That means every member of a recovering family needs to take time to do something that brings them joy and this may include:
7.) Exercise regularly.
Jogging, swimming or any other form of exercise has the proven ability to reduce stress and depression. Exercise prompts the brain to release so-called pleasure chemicals, including dopamine and oxytocin. High-energy exercise sessions can help families release tension and stress in healthier ways.
8.) Keep to a regular sleep/wake schedule.
Family members of people who use drugs worry about their loved one getting an overdose, interacting with other drug users and getting into unsafe situations that they struggle with sleep. Regular sleep loss can make people prone to anger, stress and mental exhaustion. Families can better assist with recovery when they are physically and mentally rested. Adhering to a regular sleep schedule and wake times can help prime the brain for deep sleep.
9.) Get private therapy sessions.
Research has found that families of addicted people experience increased levels of depression and anxiety. Family members can feel exhausted from caring for their family member who uses drugs and may not have the health coping skills to help themselves. A private therapy session can help stressed family members to talk openly and work through issues. Family members who themselves get therapy may find the strength and determination to help others.
10.) Educate and advocate.
There is an incredible amount of misinformation about addiction and this include the belief that it is a form of weakness and should be fixed or ignored. There are those who use language that promotes stigma like “adik”, “salot”, “good for nothing”, “weak”. When people are labeled negatively, they are more likely to be seen as someone to be punished and a threat.
But families can be advocates of change. They can share some of the knowledge they’ve learned and give their friends destigmatizing words to use instead. Families that speak up are doing something to make things better.