How Do You Help A Loved One Trapped In Addiction?

Watching a loved one whether it be a wife, husband, child, or friend go through addiction is as painful experience as any other form of illness can be.  Many feel overwhelmed by the situation and completely powerless, as to what will help them to get their loved one to quit. It becomes all-consuming as the addict or alcoholic takes centre stage within your life.

Many have tried to control the loved one, only to feel less in control. Many have tried every form of emotional support, or even emotional blackmail to get the addict to try and see sense.  Money has been given, lent, stolen, withdrawn and still no change.

You’ve kicked them out of the house, only let them back in on the backend of promises about how they are going to change. They change for a period and you renew resolve of hope, for it only to be destroyed again by another bender or crisis.

You’ve listened to every reason why they drank and used again, you believed once again every promise made, that they will change this time around and things will be different, yet still no change from them.

For many, alcoholism and addiction is a taboo subject which has been kept within the family only. The thought of others knowing brings about the fear of what others could say, who would they blame for this? What will others think of you?

 

How do you help the alcoholic and addict?

You’re unable to make them quit, unfortunately, the desire to quit must come from them.  As difficult as it may appear, you will need to take a back seat and wait until they come to you for help.

By stepping back, this may give you the chance to work on building a better relationship, as you aren’t on top of them anymore, they may feel more receptive to come and open up to you about wanting help. This could be the start of them trusting you and you trusting them again.

This can be referred to as ‘tough love’ or ‘loving from a distance.’ This will require a huge amount of support on your part, it may even mean you seeking support from a counsellor, or a specialist drug and alcohol service, so you’re able to share openly and honesty with someone what you are going through.

Many loved ones feel a mix of emotions whilst they are waiting for a loved one to get help. Anger, shame, sadness and disappointment just to name a few of them. Having specialist support with this, will be crucially important on your own healing process. This can stop the cycle of shame within the family and give others a voice to speak up.

There is a lot of healing in talking about what you are going through. By you taking the lead and speaking out, it will encourage other family members to find their voice and speak their true feelings of what is going on for them. Everyone is affected by addiction in a separate way.

Trapped in addiction

Understanding Addiction

Engaging with specialist support will help you to gain some knowledge and awareness about addiction. They will teach you about the illness of addiction and its pitfalls. This will give you skills on how to have an open and honest communication with your loved one.

It may help you see and understand when they are lying, deceiving or trying to manipulate you.  Accepting certain realities about addiction isn’t a straightforward process. To know that your loved one’s life is at risk and that you can’t do anything to help or save them in any way isn’t easy however, there is some comfort to be found on the other end of the feeling of hopelessness.

If you have and are doing everything you can to support them without enabling them anymore, then there is empowerment within that.

 

Setting boundaries and no longer enabling their addiction

Whilst you are starting to make decisions about seeking help for yourself and getting educated about addiction, you will need to set new boundaries in place and not allow yourself to enable their addiction.

You will need to state

  • What is and isn’t any longer acceptable from them?
  • What you will and won’t do to help them?
  • The consequences if they break the boundaries.

Once you’ve had an honest and frank conversation with them you will need to ensure that whatever you’ve stated, you follow through with, otherwise, this disempowers the boundaries you’ve stated and keeps the cycle of their manipulation and addiction. They may get angry with you and hurt you with words or threats, however, they will thank you in the long run for holding your ground.

Boundaries can be very basic. At the start they might look like, not being drunk or having used drugs if they want to see you or be in your home, or you will no longer lend them money, you may say you will buy them food, clothes, cigarettes but will no longer hand over cash. They cannot be in the children’s company if they aren’t sober etc.

If the boundary is broken, then it’s best to stay calm and state to them “ we’ve talked about this” or “ I love you but I’m not accepting this”  I’m not about to go down this road once again “ this then must be followed up by the consequence you agreed on. When you set this boundary, this could be stating you won’t see them for a period of time or indefinite.

For alcoholic and addicts, the experience of their consequences can sometimes be the only way they will realise what they are doing. It can be a great motivator that will bring about the necessary changes needed from them.

A reality check will sometimes help them reach their “rock bottom” quicker. This is what we were referring to at the start as ‘loving from a distance’, sometimes the greatest love is to allow them to hit the bottom. It is important to ensure you are not an enabler.

 

They must do the work

Even once a loved once enters rehab or a recovery program, they must do the work for themselves. You can support them, by attending groups with them or counselling sessions however, the work they must do on themselves to change must come from them. They can’t “do it for their family or children.”

A key element to recovery from addiction is about personal responsibility.  Once a loved one completes rehab or a recovery program, it is still their own responsibility to maintain their sobriety. They must attend their counselling sessions, their support groups or AA, NA or CA 12 step meetings.

You cannot babysit someone who is in recovery, you can support them and love them, but at an arms distance.

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Detoxification (detox) is the medical intervention required for someone who is physically dependent to drugs or alcohol. If required, medical detoxification would be the first step taken in residential rehab. Detox is used to prevent uncomfortable and dangerous (even fatal) withdrawals symptoms resulting in suddenly becoming abstinent from alcohol/certain drugs.

The goal of a medical detox is to aid in the physical healing required following long term addiction and rid the body of all together of substance whilst providing a cushion for unpleasant symptoms of withdrawals. Detox is not considered the whole treatment for drug/alcohol addiction and it is always recommended that a comprehensive rehabilitation program is used along side to help maintain long term abstinence.

Medication is often required for alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical advice prior to stopping. There is a long list of medications used when treating alcohol addiction and the exact medication given to an individual will depend on their needs/medical history. Some of these include;

  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Diazapam (vailium)


Librium and Valium are the most commonly used detox medication in the UK. All medication used to help with alcohol detox have been proven to help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

There are also a number of drugs recombined by the NHS to help treat alcohol misuse. Some of these include:

  • Naltrexone
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • Nalmefene
  • Acamprosate (campral)

Medication is always required for heroin detox. For someone suffering from heroin addiction, the thought of detoxification (detox) can be exceptionally daunting. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates, such as heroin, can be severe and include pain, vomiting, nausea and shaking.

There are different ways that heroin detox can be carried out, most usually either ‘maintenance therapy’ or ‘full medical detox’.

Attempting to switch from heroin to a heroin substitute, usually on a controlled prescription, is known as Maintenance therapy. Subsites used are most often methadone or buprenorphine.

A full medical detox from heroin will always be carried out in a residential rehab setting and will allow the individual to switch form heroin to a substitute and slowly withdraw completing treatment free of all substances. Someone using a heroin substitute can choose to have a full medical detox at any time, however detoxing substances such a methadone can often add to the length of detox required. Drugs most commonly used to fully detox from heroin are, Subutex, Suboxone and Methadone. Much like alcohol, the exact drugs used will be dependent on the individuals needs/medical history.

Once detoxed from heroin the risk of overdose is much higher following relapse due to tolerance following withdrawal.

The length of treatment in a residential rehab depends on a number of elements. Some substances require longer periods of detox than others.

Private paying patients will also often choose a length of stay that suites their therapeutic and financial needs. As a rule, a full treatment program in a rehab is considered to be 28 days (often referred to as a month), however, treatment is offered in several different ways and lengths starting at 7 days.

Treating alcohol addiction will always require a minimum of 7-10 days, this would be considered the detoxification (detox) faze. The length required for treating drug addiction can vary drastically depending on the substance being used. Detox for Heroin addiction is generally around 14 days minimum, with more time required if substances such a methadone are being used. Treating prescription drug addiction can often take the longest. The time required for treating gambling addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction will be based on the individuals needs.

Rehab programs can be as long as an individual requires but primary treatment is normally caped at 12 weeks, with the offering for further secondary and tertiary treatment thereafter.

*based on average rehab stays, everyone will vary dependant on needs and medical requirement/history.

There is no need for your employer to know that you are seeking help for trauma and addiction unless you choose to involve them with the process. All employers should have a policy that explains what you do if you cannot come to work due to illness – illness to include treating alcohol addiction/treating drug addiction.

If your work absence extends over 7 days your employer is likely to require an official statement of fitness to work which would be obtained from your GP. This would need to supply evidence of your illness as well as any adjustments required for returning to work, fazed return or reduced hours, but does not need to specify in detail the reason why you have been absent.

If you are absent from work for 7 days of less, for example entering rehab for a detoxification (detox) on a Saturday for 7-10 days taking a full week away from work, you can self-certify your illness by letting your employer work you will not be attending work for that period of time. Exactly how an individual would do this would be dependent on a specific companies’ policies on taking sick leave.

Any time longer than 7 days it is likely an employer will require a note from the individuals GP certifying their sickness and a fit note on return. Most companies have a clearly outlined policy on sickness and receiving sick pay so the exact requirement can vary. A rehab will always be willing to advise on time off work.

How much does rehab cost is a very frequently asked question. The cost of treatment can range from £1,000 per week upwards depending on the place, with luxury rehab being the most expensive.

There are free options available on the NHS but the waitlist of those looking for free treatment is longer than that for privately paying patients. Some private health insurance policies will cover treatment in some rehabs around the country.

Choosing the right rehab centre will often be based on priced but it is important to follow guidance on the most suitable treatment centre for an individual’s needs which our expert team of advisers are on hand to offer.

There are certainly pro’s for both treatment near by and traveling for treatment with one of the most asked question being should I get rehab near me? There are rehabs all over the UK and around the world that all offer expert programs, let’s look at how to choose a rehab.

Local treatment

Being close to home gives certainly has benefits. Visitors are normally permitted in rehab following the first 7 days stay, therefore if an individual is in treatment for a length of time longer than that being local will make it easier for loved ones to visit.

Most rehab centres will also provide a full aftercare plan for someone following treatment, this will include ongoing aftercare in the specific treatment centre. Living close by can make it easy to take full advantage of ongoing aftercare. There can also often be the option for ongoing care with an individual therapist, again being close by will allow that treatment to be carried out face to face.

Some individuals wish to be local but are willing to look broader, for instance the greater city of residence (London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc)

Treatment Away

Getting treatment away from home can be very appealing to some. Being out of the local area makes it a lot harder to just walk out of treatment as resources locally are unknown. Some also take comfort in knowing that they are not near home and focus more on treatment.

As the price for treatment can vary so much from one residential treatment centre to another, private paying patients often would rather travel to keep the cost down. Those using private health insurance may also have to travel to find a treatment centre covered in their policy.

When opting for treatment away from home this can be anywhere in the UK and also abroad. Aftercare can still be carried out and very successful using tools such as The Online Rehab.

There is no right or wrong when choosing where to go to residential rehab, but our expert advisors are always on hand to help provide information on all possible options.

Whilst millions of people in the UK have taken recreational drugs (amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, GHB, heron, ketamine, methadone, and prescription drugs) and drank alcohol not all become ‘addicted’. Most recent reports show that 279,793 individuals were in contact with drug and alcohol misuse services in the last year with over half of that being from opiate addiction and a quarter for alcohol.

There are several risk factors invoiced in addiction and those using drugs and alcohol socially, simply take the risk. These risks are as follows;

Tolerance – basically, if a substance is used repeatedly an individual’s tolerance to it will build. This will result in more of the same substance being required to get the same effect. In the long run this can easily lead to addiction and physical dependencies.

Environmental risks – these can include influences such a peer pressure and stress as well as physical or mental abuse of an individual (particularly as a child). Overall, those who live with frequent pressures and stress are more likely to reach for a substance to cope and are therefore at higher risk of becoming addicted.

Drug type – it is very well known that certain drugs are simply more addictive than others. Using substances such as heroin increases the risk of becoming addicted for need to ‘chase’ a high as well as physical dependency.

Drug administration – how a drug is administered can affect its addictive qualities. A drug injected rather than smoked or snorted will release a quicker and more intense high thus making it psychologically (and in many cases physically) more addictive.

Biological factors – it is now widely reported that being an addict is not only psychological but also biological. This includes your genetic makeup, mental health, sex and age. It is also reported to be 8 times more likely for the child of an addict to become an addict themselves.

Its believed that addiction is approximately half genetics and therefore some are 50% more likely to become addicted than others.

How do you help a loved one trapped in addiction?

The first step is to help and encourage the individual to become willing to accept help. They do not need to be shouting this off the rooftops, but they do need to be willing to go into treatment. There are ways to help someone become willing to get treatment for alcohol or treatment for drugs.

Set boundaries – set boundaries and stick to them. Once you have laid them out follow through with whatever consequences you have set however hard it is.

Stop finances – if you are financially supporting someone stopping these finances can be the quickest way for the addict needing to ask for help. With no money to acquire a substance an addict’s options become very limited.

Intervention – getting together with other family members/friends/colleagues and staging an intervention is often very successful in the fist stage of acceptance and gaining an admission to residential rehab.

You can’t make them quit, this can lead to dangerous withdrawal. Boundaries are very important in helping someone become willing to get help. Unfortunately you cannot do someone’s recovery for them and without self-motivation it is very hard to make it work.

The next step is to call our highly trained advisers 0203 955 7700.

There is a huge range of rehab options available and where to start can be completely over whelming so let us help.