Did you know substance abuse will affect approximately 21% of Canada’s population at some point throughout their lives? This is a staggering statistic, and one to pay special attention to. Many people are familiar with the signs of conditions like heart attack, stroke, skin cancer, etc. These are all health situations on which society is well educated when it comes to identification, treatment and prevention. But unfortunately, due to things like stigma and shame, we are less educated and far less understanding with respect to addiction. This only leads to more illness, and ultimately more death from substance abuse.
Today, we’d like to shed some light on the role taken on by those in a support system of someone who is suffering from substance abuse, and how to navigate this challenging responsibility. AHCS is a healthcare company with a special focus in community care and supporting those who are most vulnerable. With that in mind, we are going to discuss the ways you can care for someone who is struggling, while also taking care of yourself.
Addiction is different from other mental illnesses, but at its core, there are some common threads that can help us to apply some of the same principles and ultimately provide a safe and helpful environment for those in crisis. Though complex and extremely difficult to overcome, substance abuse is very much treatable, and one of the biggest contributing factors is the surrounding network of loved ones and how they can be part of paving the road to recovery. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that while you can help carry the weight with your loved one, you can’t beat the disease for them. As with many other illnesses, it’s imperative that the person suffering wants to get better.
Where Do I Start?
Begin by educating yourself on substance abuse and addiction in general, and be sure to research your loved one’s specific form of addiction. Do not make assumptions, stereotype, or come to your loved one from a place of judgement or anger. Addiction can look very different person-to-person, and it isn’t black and white – nor is treatment. If you suspect that your loved one is battling substance abuse, don’t interrogate or approach the topic in an accusatory manner. Let them know that your only motive is to support them, and ask questions about how you can best do that. Active listening can be a very helpful tool in fostering trust and openness with someone who is suffering from a highly stigmatized illness.
Remember that everyone is on their own journey, and your loved one may not be ready to address or even admit to substance abuse. You can’t force the process of recovery, so give yourself and your loved one grace. If they are open to talking about it, do your best to use encouraging language, and focus on their specific experience so that you are better positioned to understand and help them.
If your loved one communicates to you that they would like help in recovering, offer to put together a plan with them, and let them feel confident and supported in taking the next step with someone in their corner. This may involve seeking additional help in the form of professional therapy, an addiction program, or substance abuse support groups. Whatever the case, research options together and reinforce your commitment to their recovery.
If you are someone who is affected by substance abuse, know that you are not alone in it. Additionally, remember that support is not just available to those who are suffering from addiction – it also exists for those who love someone with an addiction.