As I have discussed in my previous blog, our nation is currently experiencing an opioid epidemic. In 2015, 2.5 million of the 20.5 million people in the United States suffering from a substance user disorder in 2015 were abusing either prescription painkillers or heroin; in the same year, drug overdoses were the leading cause of accidental death with 52,404 lethal overdoses. The opioid problem is no longer marked by random overdoses here and there; it has become a nationwide crisis that could affect anyone.
If someone you love is suffering from opioid addiction, it can be difficult to know how to even approach the topic of discussion. Here are some helpful tips on how to begin assisting a loved one through their opioid addiction recovery.
Avoid criticizing the person you’re trying to help
It’s going to be near impossible to have a constructive discussion with someone suffering from addiction if you broach the topic by blaming them for the things they’ve done ‘wrong’ while feeding their addictions. While you might be angry and want answers for the person’s wrongdoings, it’s important to address your concerns from a place of open-mindedness, trying to understand what the individual is going through without criticizing them for their actions.
Stop enabling their behavior
It’s hard to draw the line between helping someone manage their addiction and enabling them to continue their behavior. Are you consistently providing the individual with money or other financial assistance, allowing them to spend their money on feeding their addiction? Are you offering residential or transportational help to the person? Are you enabling them to stay addicted without fear of losing their basic human needs like food and shelter? When a loved one is struggling in any capacity we want to help them, but when it comes to someone suffering from addiction, at some point you need to lovingly detach from the situation, offering support in a way that does not also support the addiction.
Offer opportunities to change
Alongside not negatively enabling the individual, look for ways you can positively enable them instead. Once they’re no longer receiving financial support from others, you can positively enable them instead by discussing treatment options and offering your assistance in matters that will help them get better rather than helping them maintain their addiction. Do your research ahead of time and find some facilities that you think will be a best fit for your loved one. Then address the matter by showing them that, even though you can’t enable their addiction, you’re here to help them get better.
As hard as it can be to remember, the person who is addicted is not fully in control of their own actions and may have some missteps on the road to recovery. Instead of demonizing them at every wrong turn and abandoning hope each time they may relapse, take a step back and remind yourself that this will be a process full of ups and downs.