Living with an Addict and How to Cope

Articles, Australia, International, Understanding Addiction

There are far more articles about drugs, their effects, what damage addicts are doing to themselves, and treatment options available than there are about what it is like for those living with an addict.

Those going through the day to day uncertainty which is part and parcel of living with an addict need sympathy, support and knowledge.

Below we will look at this heartbreaking problem from various angles, see what steps can be taken to alleviate the stress, worry and angst for those affected, and why rehabilitation services must be used to help all concerned.

Unaware of how readily available illegal drugs are:

This point mainly relates to elderly parents and those parents who were not associated with drugs during their youth and into adulthood. Their lack of comprehension on drug availability today is completely understandable.

Drugs can be purchased with ease, there are street dealers, drug houses and venues such as clubs, concerts and festivals where drugs are a given part of the fabric.

Many without knowledge of the ease of access to illicit drugs assume it is inner-city areas that are rife with drug purchasing opportunities. While this is true they also need to understand that upmarket housing areas and wealthy suburbs are certainly not immune.

Drug gangs target those with means and money:

The ruthless drug gangs who operate multi-million dollar operations are not in the business for the fun of it. They understand exactly how addictive drugs are, and the more people they target, the bigger their profit.

Drugs are also relatively cheap to purchase; in the beginning. But once a person gets a ‘taste’ for their drug of choice the cost climbs exponentially.

This results in those with few funds turning to crime or prostitution in order to feed their habit, while those with money or living with a family that is relatively well off will dig into savings, or use whatever cash they can get from parents in order to continue their drug purchasing.

One partner becomes more partial:

It is not uncommon for couples living together to share the enjoyment of using drugs on an occasional basis, perhaps when celebrating events with friends of similar ages, hitting a club for a wild night out or attending an all-day music festival.

The problem here is when one partner becomes far more partial to drug use than the other. They will begin to increase drug use when not in the presence of the other, and individual dependence will grow.

This leads to taking drugs in secret, longer than normal absences from home while they are scoring and taking drugs, and money unaccounted for from joint income.

If this happens it is sure to lead to friction between the couple because the one who is using more heavily will be in constant denial, the other will become suspicious, angry and disillusioned with their partner’s attitude and the state of their relationship.

Common signs:

There are many signs that a person is slipping into deeper drug dependence. Mood swings are common. One minute they are up and happy, the next down, uncommunicative and unresponsive.

Regular meals take a back seat as many drugs suppress appetite and the last thing on an addict’s mind is a good, healthy meal. Glazed eyes, pupils that are overly large or look like pinpricks are common, and a deterioration in general appearance should be looked out for.

If money or valuables begin to disappear this is a sign that the addict is now in a desperate drug cycle. They need a fix, they need it now, and whatever they can use to fund a purchase will be taken.

Steps not to take:

The completely natural step to take if you suspect a loved one of heavy drugs use is to fly off the handle and scream angry threats. While this is totally understandable it is not the way to go.

This will only lead to the addict reinforcing their denial, retreating into their shell and increasing their drug use.

The truth is, deep down they know the damage they are causing but their dependence on drugs is currently far stronger that their will to stop using.

Steps that should be taken:

For those who have little knowledge of drugs the first step is to educate themselves on general facts about illicit substances. Understand how easy it is to become dependent because of the highly addictive effects drugs have on the mind and body.

Learn about common signs and actions of those using heavily, and very importantly understand what steps can be taken to help them.

If you are aware of a particular drug that is becoming all-consuming for your partner, then take in as much knowledge as possible as to why and what can be done to help.

Armed with facts and treatment options:

Once you are armed with facts it is then time to sit down with your loved one and calmly explain that you are aware of their drug problem. Do NOT take denial as an answer, tell them that they need professional help and that you will be with them every step of the way.

Initially they may well be reluctant to admit their dependence. Not because they want to defy you. It is down to fear. Many are petrified at the thought of how they will cope without their regular hit, they also fear some fairly painful withdrawal symptoms which are part and parcel of kicking a drug habit.

Perseverance and support:

You must persevere, point out the steps to be taken which will help them kick a habit that is destroying their lives and causing you untold, undeserved and unwanted anguish.

Phone or make an appointment with a professional rehab establishment, understand what services are offered and persuade your loved one that you will make an appointment on their behalf and take them to the appointment.

Recovery will not be an overnight event, but it is achievable. If after consultation an inpatient stay at a respectable rehab establishment is recommended, then support this all the way.

Your support will be a major influence on the recovery of someone you care for dearly, and once they are healed it is hoped the bonds between you will become even stronger.

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Anne -

Anne Lazarakis joined the DARA Rehab team from Sydney, Australia. She writes about addiction and mental health on a global, local and community level. She also relays personal accounts of substance abuse and recovery through the stories of our clients, their families and our own team members.

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