At one point or another in your life, you may have been faced with the situation of having a family member or someone close to you make the life-changing decision of seeking professional help for substance abuse. More often than not, however, what’s more difficult than the prospect of being physically separated from them is how to talk about the problem with them in the first place. It is always challenging to find the right words to say in such situations.
A key step in ensuring positive and productive communication when a friend or loved one is going into rehab is to learn more about addiction. For one, a big misconception about substance abuse is that it is a deliberate choice—that people with addiction problems can just as easily quit as they had picked up the habit. This leads to insensitive remarks such as “Why can’t you just stop it?” or “Are you sure you are an addict?”
Medical and scientific research has largely shown that addiction is a mental disorder that is caused by a number of underlying factors, among which are elements that are biological in nature. It has been found that certain individuals have a genetic disposition toward developing addictions.
Research has also shown that the earlier an individual gets hooked on alcohol or drugs, the more likely they are to develop a long-term addiction. This is because substance abuse by itself adversely impacts the proper development of the brain. Environmental factors also play a big role in developing addictions, and these include such things as pressure from peers, lack of guidance from parents and other authority figures, and actual exposure to destructive habits such as drinking or taking drugs.
Once you fully understand the situation of substance abuse, you can reach out with more empathy and contribute to the betterment of the person battling it. Here are some simple but meaningful remarks you can say that may help a family member or friend who is going into rehab:
“I am here for you.”
Showing solidarity and support is important to encourage someone in rehab. They are already facing a lot of fear and trepidation going into treatment, and they are basically stepping into the unknown. As such harsh judgment or analysis will not do them any good. Simply saying that you will be there whenever or however they may need you is appropriate. It also gives them space to breathe while avoiding the pressure of expectations. Your acceptance of their journey, whatever the outcome may be, would be most reassuring to them.
“I am proud of you.”
Affirming the individual’s decision to undergo treatment is also vital in setting them on the road to long-term recovery. Negative emotions such as blame, shame or guilt are what need to be avoided. Valuing others for their worth as a person will help them believe in themselves and empower them to overcome the challenges of their addiction. It is also helpful to show them that whatever wrong decisions they may have made in the past does not define their present situation or their future outcome.
“I am getting help, too.”
Nothing is more powerful than the humility to admit that you may have your own problems to deal with as well, and that seeking help in the proper manner through rehab and professional intervention is the right way to go. This is especially true if you are in some way involved in the abusive situation, as it helps to show the other person that you are going through the same process and that asking for help does not make you any less of a person. It is comforting for people with addiction problems to know that they are not alone in facing the demons that torment them.
Actions are just as powerful as well, so be sure to let the other person know how sincere you are by taking physical steps to help them address substance abuse. Check how you may be contributing to co-dependency or encouraging further addiction, especially when they eventually come out of rehab. Be aware of such behavior and take concrete steps to create a positive support system for the patient.
Also, don’t make any promises that you can’t keep or commitments that you cannot make good on. Disappointment and frustration can cause addicts to backslide and spiral into depression or negativity, bringing them back to where they started. Focusing on their achievements and taking small but sure steps are more beneficial than expecting an addict to miraculously change overnight.
All in all, knowledge is key to understanding. Once you know better, you can act better and help an individual on the way to full recovery. Proper information helps avoid misunderstanding and judgment. Rather, people with addiction problems need all the compassion that they can get in order to surpass the challenges that they face with their substance abuse. Keeping their welfare in mind at all times will ensure that the recovery process will be truly rewarding and long-lasting.