How To Cope With Caring For An Addict
By now, I'm sure you've heard the sad news about Cory Monteith. And I'm sure you've heard about his autopsy results. And I'm almost positive that you're heartbroken, even if you weren't the biggest Gleek. Personally, I've never even watched the show, and the news hit me pretty hard – here's a talented, grounded, young male who had a lot to offer, and his untimely passing could have been prevented.
I'm not here to talk to you about Cory's greatest moments – I'm here to talk about the devastation of loving someone with an addiction. While I count my lucky stars that I've never been put in a position like his girlfriend Lea Michele, I know how it feels to lose someone I've loved – and I've been of legal drinking age long enough to have seen plenty of instances where friends (and myself – I'm no saint) change personalities based on having one too many. While all addictions are tough to conquer, heroin is one of those drugs that can absolutely change your life after just one use. It's scary to me, to the point where I've never even been curious about it.
Cory was obviously trying to get better after quietly checking himself into rehab this year. According to a survey taken by the the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, 23.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009. While rehab isn't always successful (many patients end up relapsing, which is why professionals typically say the individual needs to "hit rock bottom" and do this for themselves when they're truly ready), it's a step in the right direction.
"One of the main reasons death can occur shortly after an individual is released from rehab is because of a large decrease in tolerance that their body experiences after a period of abstinence," said Dr. Adi Jaffe, co-founder and research director of Alternatives Addiction Treatment Center in Beverly Hills. So, to make matters worse, one ugly relapse after 30 successful days might have been why Cory had such an unexpected ending.
Lea (rightfully) remained quiet for awhile, but finally released a statement through her rep regarding the news:
While some addicts can be great about hiding their secret pains, others negatively affect their friends and families on a daily basis. While some might not see it this way, addiction is a disease that changes your brain chemistry. It's a shame that Intervention is on its last season, because it's an amazing look into the lives of addicts and their loved ones – it accurately depicts how draining and horrific it could be to care about someone who uses illegal and dangerous methods to escape their pain. Often times family members accidentally enable the addict (by giving them rides, money, and a free place to live), because they don't know what else to do. So – what should you do if you're in a similar situation?
First And Foremost, Take Care Of Yourself. Make sure you have enough positive influences in your life, and don't cater your life towards babysitting the addict. As much as it may hurt to take time for yourself, you're not helping the situation if they're making no attempt to change. If your loved one gets abusive, you don't have to take it. Try and be in the healthiest environment you possibly can.
Don't Enable Them. As mentioned before, you might be enabling without even realizing it. Drug addicts will often do anything it takes to get their fix – and if they know you're reluctant to hand over cash, they'll keep asking. Eventually, it'll become a habit that will be tough to break out of.
Listen To Them. So many episodes of Intervention start out with the addict admitting horrendous abuse from their childhood, and quite often, their parents assume they're lying about it or they're in denial of it ever happening. Thus, the addict turns to drugs in order to numb the pain. If a child ever says they were handled inappropriately, believe them. Even if the child has an active imagination, you need to take the accusations seriously. Even if it might cause a rift in the family. Nobody deserves to be ignored when something serious affects their life, and nobody should feel like these incidents are their fault, or based on something they did.
Have A Plan. Let the addict know that you love them and care about them, and have a plan ready if they're willing to recover. Rehab can be expensive for a typical household, but if it'll make a difference, it's worth every penny.
Consider Counseling. You're not alone – not by a long shot. Social networks are easy to find if you want to find other individuals in a similar situation. Sometimes the best way to cope is to find someone who knows exactly how you feel. Organizations such as Al-Anon, Alateen and Nar-Anon offer 12 Step programs for the families and friends of alcoholics and addicts.
Just remember, people all over the world are facing the same struggles as you. If you're concerned about someone you love, you might need to enforce extreme measures to make sure their addiction doesn't lead to an early death.
And if they do decide to improve their situation, they'll be nothing but grateful to have someone by their side who has emotionally supported them through thick and thin.
Featured image via justjared.com