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How to help and addict

If your loved one or family member is suffering from addiction you may be keen to know what works and what doesn't in terms of helping them You may think that by given them money or paying off a debt you are helping. Or that by providing a roof over their head you are keeping them safe from harm.

The Reality

There is only one way to help an addict and that is to ensure that there are consequences to the addiction. If there are no consequences, due to the fact that you are bailing them out or stopping them from living in squalor, the addict is unlikely to want to stop and the behaviour will continue.

The addict has to get to a point in their addiction where their life is unmanageable, whilst they still feel in control of things they will continue as there will be little reason to stop. Few addicts get clean because they have lost a bit of weight or have little money. Addicts clean up because they have no choice, as to continue as they are would lead to death and annihilation of all things they value.

On a daily basis Addicts have to do things others would consider immoral in order to feed their addiction, having a debt settled is a green light to run up a new debt. No amount of begging and pleading for them to do the right thing will work. They have to have had enough, enough of the pain, humiliation, debts, arguments, mental torture etc.

Debt Collectors

I often have families calling me up, full of fear for their loved ones safety and sometimes for their own. They have been told that if they do not settle and outstanding drug debt the consequences for their loved one will be a beating or worse. Naturally they want to do anything they can to stop this happening, even if it means paying thousands of pounds to clear a debt to a drug dealer. I always advise that they would be far better off putting that money towards treatment for their loved one; otherwise they are likely to be facing the same scenario a few months down the line. If a dealer does turn up at your door, the best thing you can do is advise the person isn't there and call the police. Drug dealers don't want the hastle of police investigations even if it means letting go of an old debt. Your loved one is far more likely to get help also as it will be harder for them to get their drugs on tick with an outstanding debt.

Tough Love

Another scenario that is common is that the loved one is living and using under the same roof as you. You may justify that you are saving them from getting any worse, but are you really? Or are you just delaying the inevitable and putting yourself in the firing line for more hurt and disappointment. I always advise families that have addicts living with them to have tough boundaries in place with the understanding that if these boundaries are crossed or broken there will be unpleasant consequences. Also that if they wish to continue to have the on-going support of the family that they need to be willing to address the addiction

Support the person not the addiction

Tough love can be hard on families especially if they are blaming themselves for their loved ones behaviour. But the addict themselves are the ones that have to want to stop, otherwise treatment measures will only work (if at all) in the short term. It has to be bad enough that they will do anything to not return to their old way of life and addiction. As a general rule, always support and encourage your loved one if they are actively seeking help and being seen to show change. If they are not, you are best to leave them to get on with it until they arrive at a point where they can admit they need help. Denial is the biggest killer in addiction, by not challenging their behaviour you too are buying into that denial.

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