The numbers are clear and alarming – deadly drug overdoses are on the rise throughout the United States. Nearly 64,000 of these deaths happened in 2016 with the number of synthetic opioid overdose deaths doubling from the previous year according to the National Vital Statistics System. Tennessee ranks third in the country for prescription drug abuse.
If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, the statistics and stories can be discouraging, but don’t allow them to take away your hope. Recovery is possible and has many pathways. Here are three ways to support a loved one through addiction recovery.
Be Aware of the Symptoms
It can be difficult for to predict and pinpoint when recreational or occasional use becomes an addiction.
Addiction is a chronic disorder that causes an individual to seek out a substance of choice as a need, even when using the substance may be harmful to them and those around them. Addiction has a significant impact on daily life and habits.
Understanding the signs of addiction can help you plan an appropriate action. Symptoms of addiction may include drastic changes in behavior, denying or rationalizing using the substance of choice, the inability to stop using, decreased work or school performance, mounting legal problems, irritability and emotional struggles such as anger or depression.
Listen Without Judging
Having an open dialogue about addiction with your loved one can help break down preconceived notions surrounding the issue, strengthen connectedness and provide the comfort of knowing that someone is there to help. Addiction affects everyone differently, so the path to recovery is a personal journey. Listen to your loved one’s story. Let them know they’ve been heard, and then try to focus on practical steps toward healing without voicing any harsh judgments.
Support and Encourage
Most importantly, support and encourage your loved one to seek help. There are numerous treatment services and addiction professionals available. Although caring for a loved one in the middle of their addiction can be difficult, don’t let go of the possibility of recovery—because it really happens.
In Tennessee, Andrew grew up in a family with drug issues, became addicted to drugs and alcohol, lost contact with his children and was incarcerated. Working with a therapist at Centerstone he learned to process his past traumas and gained healthy coping skills to manage his emotions and the stressors of daily life. Andrew has since achieved more than two years of sobriety, moved into a new home, found a great job he loves, got married and developed healthy relationships with his children..
“I know with the help I have, I can overcome anything,” he said. “Today I’m very proud of myself. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.”
Matt Hardy, PhD, is a Regional Vice President at Centerstone overseeing its integrated behavioral health care services in the northern area of Middle Tennessee. The opinions expressed in this op-ed belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.