- Take care of yourself. Living with an addict is exhausting. You also need time to recover. Take time for your own life. (See How-To Below)
- Avoid self-blame. You can’t control another person’s decisions, and you can’t force them to change. Addiction is a disease, not a personal failure.
- Do not work harder than the person you’re trying to help. Being a caretaker is not good for anyone. Instead, be an example of balance and self-care. Understand that there is only so much you can do without enabling.
- Educate yourself & ask for help. Call Wellness at (888) 492-3658 to get instant, personal guidance, as well as recommendations for local, top-rated professionals or family of addicts support groups
- Stay positive and supportive, yet realistic. Arguing or trying to discuss when the addict is high or drunk won’t get you anywhere while negativity can increase feelings of guilt and push the addict further into using. Addiction is overwhelming and healing will take time.
How To Tell If Your Loved One is Using Drugs
Individuals struggling with drugs puts a lot of care into hiding their habit including aggressive denial, lies and manipulation. Often, loved ones are left in a state of worry and uncertainty. Here’s what to look for.
Take the “How Much is Too Much alcohol?” quiz.
A person consistently abusing drugs and alcohol can undergo alterations to their physical appearance. Does your loved one have bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils? Does their coordination or speech appear to be impaired? Have they experienced rapid weight loss or gain? Have they suddenly stopped paying attention to their hygiene? If needles are involved, you may spot track marks (scars) on their arms or anywhere else with a vein. Your loved one might also hide paraphernalia, like pipes or pill bottles, close to where they sleep for quick and easy access. Your loved one may also have a changed sleeping pattern where they are awake at night and asleep during the day.
We all go through personality shifts, but healthy ones happen slowly and gradually. If your loved one goes from quiet and passive to belligerent and aggressive quickly, and for no apparent reason, this should be cause for concern. They may also go from being hyperactive to lethargic. Mood swings typically last awhile, but in a drug haze, the mood swings can constantly flip-flop. Erratic mood swings or reclusive and private behavior can be indicators of substance abuse.
Changes In Routine
To some degree, most people have a specific pattern of going about their daily tasks. We tend to eat, sleep and work at around the same time each day, with a mostly consistent level of performance or interest in each of these activities. As addiction takes hold, drug abusers may take them to the extreme or the minimum. They may sleep too much, eat too little or lose productivity at work, at school or for the hobbies that they previously enjoyed. A person using drugs may disappear for hours (or even days) on end without speculation to try to hide their drug habit. Absence from school, work, or obligations may be an early indicator in addiction.
A recurrent, unexplained, questionable need for money is a big sign. Financial issues caused by drug addiction start ugly, with severe consequences (like debt) and only get more and more heinous. Desperation for money often gets addicts put into jail, fired from their jobs or worse. Look out for missing items.
Getting Into Trouble
Drug abuse impairs judgment and self-control, so addicts often find themselves getting into verbal and physical altercations with the people around them, or just making poor choices like drinking and driving. Drug abuse also makes us dismissive of responsibilities that we are legally obligated to handle, like paying parking tickets, filing tax returns and caring for children. Commonly, adolescent and teen and even adult substance abusers will begin hanging around different peers, so families should be aware of the potential for trouble when their loved one starts spending time with unfamiliar groups of friends.
Talk to those closest to the suspected addict. Even if you’re not particular close, this can confirm your suspicions as more than just your own bad feelings. If you and another loved one share concerns, you probably aren’t both imagining them.
Signs of Specific Drug Use:
- Heroin: Chemically enforced euphoria; a dreamlike state similar to sleep; nodding out; dilated pupils.
- Methamphetamine: Sleeplessness for days and weeks at a time; total loss of appetite; weight loss; dilated pupils; talkative; deluded sense of power; paranoia; loss of control; unusual sweating; hallucinations; confusion; mood changes; agitation.
- Ecstasy: Changes in mental and physical stimulation; altered perception of sound, light and touch; stimulation of physical energy with a related decrease in appetite and increase in body temperature; teeth clenching; nausea.
- Cocaine: Impaired thinking; anxious; short-tempered; dilated pupils; loss of appetite; restlessness; talkative; paranoia.
- Marijuana: Bloodshot and squinty red eyes; compulsive eating; dry mouth; forgetfulness; extreme lethargy; delayed motor skills; hallucinations; lack of motivation; strong mood changes; and behaviors
How To Care for Yourself
While dealing with the addiction of someone you love, you may forget to take some time for you. It’s easy to get so caught up in their life that you let go of your own. However, lack of personal care brings on exhaustion, where you operate in a mental fog.
Self-care is the constant repetition of many habits, which together ensure you’re functioning fully on emotional, physical, and mental levels. Your loved one no longer needs to struggle, and neither do you.
Self-Care for the Mind
- Do something you enjoy every day without feeling guilty. Even the little things like buying yourself something new, reading a new book or going to your favorite restaurant can help you feel better and re-focus your thoughts.
- Meet with friends at least once a week. To avoid feeling isolated, make an extra effort to schedule social events, even if it’s just a quick coffee meet-up.
- Ask for professional help. Find a therapist or reach out to our Wellness team to get stresses and worries off your chest.
Self-Care for the Body
- Improve your diet & sleep patterns. Feeling better physically gives you energy to better handle stresses.
- Exercise. Running, walking or jogging even for just 15 minutes can help you release built-up tension.
- Have a good laugh. When was the last time you had a gut laugh? Laughter really can improve your psychological state.
- Give your body ten minutes of mindful attention. Bringing your awareness to how your body is feeling can give you awareness on how to connect better within yourself.
Self-Care for the Soul
- Help someone else. Wave hello to a neighbor, carry a bag or volunteer. Even though you cannot control a loved one’s addiction, you can make a huge difference in the world.
- Enjoy nature. Go cloud-watching, get some fresh air and “smell the roses.” Going outside reminds you there is so much beauty in the world.
- Start a compliments folder. Write down the great things people say about you and read it later when you need encouragement.
- Meditate. Spend 5 minutes of awareness of your thoughts and feelings with your devices turned off to hep you refocus on more positive or productive things.
- Attend religious services. For some people, seeking refuge in a higher power can give a whole new perspective and hope.
How To Select an Addiction Treatment Facility
A 10-Point checklist to ensure you select the right treatment center.
1. Joint Commission Accreditation
The Joint Commission gold seal is the highest standard in healthcare. The non-profit organization ensures a high level of quality care during their initial evaluation and certifies continuous improvement through random check-ins. Only 18% of treatment centers meet this standard. There are also state affiliations, like Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association (FADAA), which has a strict vetting process to distinguish trustworthy drug rehab centers in Florida.
Questions to ask: Is your facility accredited? By which agency? What industry groups are you a member of?
2. Online Reviews
A reputable facility should have plenty of positive reviews found on multiple websites. Keep in mind, any large company is bound to have some negativity. Instead of perfection, look for a consistent history of positive feedback.
Questions to ask yourself: Is it easy to find reviews for this facility? Do the reviews seem real? Is the average review score 4/5 or higher? How long has the company been in business?
Speak with former clients and non-profit advocacy groups directly to get real feedback from a third-party.
Questions to ask: Can you provide alumni references? Can you provide contact information for an unaffiliated advocacy group that can vouch for your facility?
4. Comprehensive Treatment
Reputable facilities treat the whole individual including the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the disease, with a focus on clinical therapy that does not use a one-size-fits-all method. Important options include anti-craving medications, dual-diagnosis (the treatment of underlying conditions like anxiety) and stress management.
Questions to ask: What does a typical week look like? Do you offer dual-diagnosis treatment? What is your policy on anti-craving medications? Do you offer life skills training? Do you utilize the 12-step program? What therapy options are available (music, art, marriage counselling, etc.)? What is the typical length of stay?
5. Clinician Qualifications
You want clinicians to always have formal education or certifications in fields like psychology or social work. Experience in the field is also critical. Ideally, a client is working with multiple clinical staff members that come together to ensure progress.
Questions to ask: Who will be involved in the treatment? Can I speak with a clinician directly? What is the educational background of the clinical staff? Do they have any certifications? How long have they been working in the field? How long have they been at this facility? Why did you choose this field?
6. Aftercare Planning
Look for a facility that offers real help post-treatment. This is where many treatment facilities fall short. You want a place that will help you craft an aftercare plan that meets your specific needs, including everything from halfway housing to intensive outpatient treatment (IOP).
Questions to ask: How do you help after treatment? What do your aftercare plans include? Is there someone available to talk to after treatment? Do you host alumni meetings?
7. Family Involvement
Loved ones need support and guidance throughout the process. Additionally, their active involvement increases the likelihood of permanent recovery. On the other hand, certain contact can be distracting or even triggering. Look for a facility that offers direct support to family members and engages them in the treatment process, yet has policies to ensure interactions are constructive, not destructive.
Questions to ask: How can family be involved in treatment? Is there someone family members can talk to? What is the visitation policy? What is the phone policy?
While staying close to loved ones can seem ideal, getting away often helps eliminate certain triggers and increase the focus on recovery. Since feeling relaxed and comfortable is important for being open to treatment, places like Florida and California are popular. While it can feel scary, it is as simple as a plane ticket, which the facility should help you coordinate.
Questions to ask yourself: Has treatment already been sought locally before? Where is the facility located?
9. Tour (Optional)
To get an idea of what daily life is like and ensure you feel comfortable with the clinicians, seeing it in-person ahead of time is helpful. However, you can certainly make an informed decision without this step, if you do not live in the area.
Questions to ask: How can I schedule a tour to see the facility? Can you provide photos or videos of the facility?
In an ideal world, cost is not a determining factor in getting the most appropriate healthcare. However, the reality is the price of addiction treatment ranges. Find out your insurance coverage and any out-of-pocket costs upfront.
Questions to ask: Do you accept my insurance? If yes, what are my out-of-pocket costs? If no, what is the self-pay rate?
How to Learn More
Loving a struggling addict or alcoholic can feel helpless and frustrating, but to heal you have to take care of yourself first. HopeTracker is a free online tool specifically designed to help family members and friends that love someone with an addiction. It’s a crash course to educate you, a community to support you, and a forum to interact and ask questions.
The ten-session Addiction University will go over the things you need to know, like:
Learn about the causes of addiction, the thoughts and behaviors that drive people to use drugs and alcohol, and other important concepts that you’ll need along the way.
Family Support Meetings
As a loved one, you experience the chaos, fear and hopelessness of addiction alongside the person who is struggling. Find support meetings in your area so that you can take back control of your life and your sanity.
Are you helping them get better, or are you giving them a free pass to continue their addiction? This section breaks down the difference between supporting their addiction and supporting their recovery.
Boundaries and Communication
Firm boundaries and clear, direct communication will help both of you set expectations and stick to them. Review strategies that will prepare you for the difficult conversations.
Finding the right care can be confusing. This session will show you how to navigate treatment options, and insurance policies so you can find the best fit for your loved one.
Interventions & Legal Options
Resistance to treatment is natural because their addiction is in control. Learn how to navigate the options and familiarize yourself with common excuses that keep them from getting help.
Detachment with Love
If a loved one refuses to go to treatment, you still deserve peace. Get tips from the experts about when to detach and how to support their recovery from distance.
Life After Rehab
Get prepared for the next phase of healing after treatment. This section details the warning signs of relapse and how to rebuild the trust and understanding that was broken during their addiction.
You have the power to take back control of your life and find happiness for yourself. This section will help you how to hold onto your serenity, even when things get tough.
Tracking Your Progress
Recovery is a lifelong process. Check back periodically to retest your knowledge and reassess the progress you and your loved one have made.
The HopeTracker Community
HopeTracker’s addiction forum and community page provide continuing support, for free, forever. Post your questions and engage with others who are learning to cope. Either way, you’ll find a safe place be surrounded by support from other parents, siblings, friends who can relate and want to help.