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Nothing is more agonizing than watching a friend, family member or spouse deal with a chronic illness. Drug and alcohol addiction is no different, and as a bystander to the chaos you might feel overwhelmed, powerless and ashamed that you’re not doing more. Instead of standing by and watching your friend, parent, child or spouse self-destruct, step into the fray and help them come to grips with their addiction, seek help and remain on the road to recovery. During this process, it’s also wise to realize you cannot force recovery on an addict, and that you cannot realistically care for and support your loved one if you aren’t also taking care of yourself.

Recognizing the Signs of Drug and Alcohol Addiction

When it comes to any form of addiction, knowledge is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. You’ve witnessed a change in your love one’s behavior, but aren’t quite sure if their sudden and drastic difference in appearance or attitude is caused by a drug or alcohol addiction. Don’t wait until the issue becomes overtly apparent, and instead watch for the other, sometimes more subtle signs and symptoms of alcohol or drug addiction, including:

  • Physical signs of dependence– bloodshot eyes, sudden weight gain or loss, slurred speech, bodily tremors and a noticeable change in the person’s sleep patterns and personal appearance.
  • Behavior signs of abuse-a sudden change in a person’s friends or activities, frequent run-ins with authority figures, deterioration of work or school performance and sudden financial problems.
  • Sudden mood swings-irritability, paranoia or an overall change in the person’s attitude are some of the psychological symptoms of dependence.

Staging an Intervention

Urging your loved one to seek help in a non-judgmental, supportive fashion is an effective tool, but it’s crucial to understand one of the most pervasive misconceptions that many family members and friends buy into concerning addiction, which is the belief an addict must hit the mystical “rock bottom” before they can begin to seek treatment. For some, rock bottom is a dangerous place that cannot be returned from, and the longer loved ones ignore the issue and wait, the more difficult it can be for the addict to recover. Before attempting to stage an intervention, or a meeting where a group of concerned friends and family members confront an abuser and urge him or her to seek help, it’s important to educate yourself on the process. Plan the intervention thoughtfully, get everyone concerned on the same page and hire a professional interventionist to help conduct this sensitive intercession.

While Your Loved One Seeks Treatment

Addiction affects more than the abuser, it also breed chaos, fear and uncertainty in the lives of everyone involved. Make it a point to stay in contact with the addict during treatment and continue to show your support. Visit him or her when permitted and remain positive about their recovery. Take this time to seek family or marriage counseling, as the addict’s behavior probably had a profound impact on your marriage and family dynamic. The recovery process is not only about the addict finding sobriety, it’s also about healing broken relationships and finding peace within a family.

After Rehab

For a recovering addict, the first year after rehab is potentially the most crucial time of his or her life, and fraught with danger, frustration, boredom and loneliness. As a friend or family member, the most you can do during this time is offer your unwavering support, which can mean anything from helping the recovering addict find employment or even filling his boring Sunday afternoon with a game of touch football. It’s also important to realize that success after rehab is not a guarantee, and if you suspect your loved one is falling back under the spell of addiction, it’s crucial for you to once again help them back onto the road to recovery.

As a concerned family member, best friend, spouse or parent it’s important to realize that you cannot dream of helping your loved one through this tumultuous process if you’re not emotionally, physically and financially able to care of yourself. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help, or participate in a support group like Alanon or Alateen. You’ll be surprised by how much just talking about this journey can fill you with a renewed sense of purpose and vigor to help your loved one find success after rehab.


This article was written by Jillian Thompson.  Jillian writes for DrugRehab.org. She has over five years of experience working with those suffering from drug and alcohol abuse and is passionate about helping people to lead fulfilling, sober lives.


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