How to Handle the Surprise of Discovering a Loved One’s Addiction

February 28, 2016

A family therapy session

Finding out that a loved one is struggling with an addiction can be difficult. The person with the addiction may have gone to great lengths to conceal their problem from those around them, and may have successfully hidden the addiction for several weeks, months or years. When the person’s family and friends discover the addiction, they may feel overwhelmed, scared, confused and unsure about what to do. In this situation, it’s important to create and follow a specific plan in order to help the loved one as quickly and effectively as possible.

Millions of people struggle with addiction. Because society has portrayed addiction as a problem that only weak-willed, lazy and selfish people have, many addiction sufferers try to hide their troubles from those around them. This can be dangerous for the addict because it can put her life and wellbeing in danger and prevent her from getting the help that she needs.

Staging an Intervention

When a person discovers that his loved one has an addiction, he should take care to handle the situation as carefully as possible. One of the best ways that family members and friends can help their loved one is by staging an intervention. This process can initially seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be if the person works according to specific guidelines.

Drew W. Edwards gives the following recommendations for having a successful intervention:

  • Don’t wait for the loved one to hit rock bottom: prolonging the addiction can significantly increase the person’s chances of injuring herself or others.
  • Contact an interventionist: this person will help lead the planning and execution of the intervention.
  • Identify effects of the addiction: one powerful way to encourage an addict to get help is by showing her the ways that her addiction hurts herself and those around her.
  • Set realistic expectations: the loved one may not be happy about the intervention, so family and friends should be prepared for a potentially negative reaction.
  • Outline clear consequences for continuing addiction: each family member and friend involved in the intervention should explain exactly what will happen if the person doesn’t seek out professional addiction help.
  • Follow through with statements made during the intervention: making statements about consequences is not enough; the family and friends must commit to their planned consequences if the person refuses professional treatment.

Role of Family and Friends in Recovery

Once the intervention takes place, the addict will hopefully agree to addiction treatment at a professional rehabilitation center. Her family and friends will play an important role during the rehabilitation and recovery process, so they should prepare themselves for their role in the person’s recovery.

Judy Scheel outlines several key ways to offer support to a person going through rehabilitation and recovery:

  • Understand that recovery is a long-term process
  • Prepare for potential setbacks, such as relapse, throughout recovery
  • Stay focused on the goal of long-term sobriety
  • Change household behaviors to support recovery
  • Support the recovering person by creating a safe place for conversations about feelings and fears

Get More Information About Helping a Loved One with Addiction Recovery

Addictions are complex disorders that many people don’t fully understand. Having an addiction can be embarrassing and frightening for many people, so they respond by hiding their problem from those who love them. But having the support of friends and family is often exactly what a person needs, both before getting addiction help and throughout the recovery process. If you have recently discovered a loved one’s addiction and are unsure about what to do, call us at 615-490-9376 today. Our admissions coordinators can also help you find an interventionist and a rehabilitation program that works best for you.

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