What do I do now?

Trying to help a loved one with addictionI think my loved one might have an addiction problem. What do I do now? This is question that we all dread to ask ourselves.  Whether you think you may be addicted or are the loved one of a possibleaddict/alcoholic the answer can be terrifying.  There is a stigma attached to addiction.  We live in a society that largely still believes that addiction is somehow a moral issue that has to do more with weak character and poor choices than a disease that needs to be treated equally to any other medical disease.  My own family often asked the question, “Why can’t he just stop?”  The short answer, I couldn’t.  I had passed beyond the point at which will-power could properly be brought to effect.  I am a real alcoholic.  Not all who have drinking or drug problems are like me however.  Some can stop on their own, most cannot.  There are statistics that suggest that there are a large number of people in this country that need help but never get it.  According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health 23.2 Million persons (9.4% of the U.S. population) aged 12 or older needed treatment from alcohol or illicit drug use in 2007.  Of these individuals, 2.4 million actually received treatment.  That leaves 20.8 million individuals who met the diagnostic criteria for addiction didn’t receive the help they needed.  This ratio in this doesn’t vary significantly from those taken in previous years in recent history (samhsa.org).  This is a large number but it can easily be dismissed by most that aren’t addicted themselves or dealing with an addicted loved one.  These statistics become much more staggering when you or someone you know is one of the millions who need help.

What all of us must first ask ourselves is this:  “Am I (or is my loved one) an addict/alcoholic?”  If you can answer this question immediately to the affirmative, then it’s time to ask yourself if you are ready to do something about it.  If you are unsure, then ask yourselves the questions in this survey from Narcotics Anonymous and judge the results for yourself: Am I an Addict?  If you are satisfied you are dealing with a real addiction to drugs, alcohol or other compulsive behavior, then it’s time to look at solving the problem.  There are many different levels at which we can engage in the recovery process.  Not everyone needs to go to a residential treatment center.  Some do very well in 12-step programs, intensive outpatient programs, individual counseling or sober living homes.  What is important as we investigate the proper solution is that we ask ourselves not what the addict is willing to do but rather what do the truly need to get well.  Many times families opt for the treatment modality that will be met with the least amount of resistance instead of looking at meeting the needs of the individual.  This is a primary reason we see the revolving door of treatment programs who are taking on clients whose needs they are not meeting.  If you are unsure what the next step should be contact a professional who can consult with you and provide some appropriate options.  Make sure the solution you implement has the greatest chance at providing the appropriate tools for lasting recovery.  If you are the loved one of an addict, then prepare yourself to make some changes as well.  Addiction is a family disease and recovery must be a family process as well.  Become willing to allow yourself to be accountable to a 12-step recovery group like Al-Anon and/or to an individual counselor.  You will need the tools and support necessary to construct healthy boundaries that may not be in place at this current moment.

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