Supporting someone with addiction, from the treatment of their addiction through to rehab is incredibly challenging. Why is it so challenging? Because on the one hand, you as a family member are filled with so much hope that this person is going to address their addiction. And secondly, so much fear and anxiety that they’re not gonna address this addiction successfully.

So it’s a very emotional construct for a family member and to a degree that emotion is completely normal, but at the same time, may not necessarily be helpful because you have so much invested in that individual.

What can you do to help the person with addiction?

Those initial comments notwithstanding, there are certain things that you can do from a very practical perspective to help that individual. The first is to recognise that it is the individual who has the addiction, it is their responsibility. It is not your responsibility. Unless they really wanna address their addiction, the likelihood of their being successful is pretty low. Recognising that and helpful understanding will, to a degree, make it easier for you, but also not put too much pressure on that other person.

I think practically giving that individual a list or a range of options where they can address their addiction, encouraging them to seek professional help from alcohol and drug counsellors, considering and being supportive if they decide to go into a rehab programme. If they have private health insurance, helping them to understand that that will actually support, in many instances, treatment in a clinic that is skilled at treating addiction.

What comes after the detox phase?

And if they get through that initial phase, the initial detox, the initial phase of not using their substance, then one moves into the rehab phase and rehab is almost more difficult than the initial stopping because there are reasons why that person has become addicted to that substance. And I think creating a sense of optimism, being available and supportive, being nonjudgmental to the extent that you can, create an environment where that person can talk about their struggles with their addiction is important.

And then finally, ultimately, it gets back to the core issue. And the core issue is that that person is addicted to that substance, that their temptation to use will continue for many, many years to come and that in whatever way you can encourage them and support them and be available that will help. But once again, it is up to the individual to take control of addressing their addiction. You as a family member cannot make them address it. You can only be there in the background and at times in the foreground to help them, supporting someone with addiction.

Dr Matthew Cullen, Psychiatrist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney


How to get help

If you need immediate help, call triple zero ‘000’.

Important national numbers for help:

  • Emergency 24/7 – 000
  • 1800 RESPECT 24/7 – 1800 737 732
  • Kids Help Line 24/7 – 1800 551 800
  • Sexual Assault Counselling Aust – 1800 211 028
  • Men’s Line – 1300 789 978
  • Men’s Referral Service 24/7 – 1300 766 491
  • TIS – need an interpreter? – 131 450

Important online help

Last Reviewed: 17/09/2020

myDr

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