Trying to help an opiate addict

With opiate addiction on the rise we've been getting a lot of calls from family and friends of opiate addicts.  Most are desperately searching for ways to help their addicted loved one.  The painful truth is that they are asking the wrong question.  "How can we get help for ourselves" is the right question but, sadly, most aren't prepared to consider viewing themselves as needing care.

Loving and being involved with an opiate addict, or any addict or alcoholic for that matter, is a sad and painful experience.  The trauma is twofold: first is from a lack of a systematic strategy to deal with the problem and second is the pain from watching a loved one court despair and death on an ongoing basis.  It's a natural response for a family to focus it's energy and resources to "rescue" the addict and hope to get him/her to stop.  The desire for a quick fix camouflages the depth of the work to be done.

Those of us who frequently fly have heard countless times "In the event of a sudden cabin depressurization put your oxygen mask on first before you help the person next to you."  The same thing is true with an addict's loved ones.  Engaging in your own program of recovery and treatment is the best thing you can do to help not only yourself but the addict as well.  I know it sounds counter intuitive but it's true.

As loved ones engage in their own process they see things clearer, they recognize enabling, they start to accept limits and are better able to develop an effective strategy for dealing with the addict.  Most important, they also begin to change emotionally and spiritually which has a powerful effect on those around them.  This allows them to develop and implement a strategy for addressing the addict in an inviting, caring, firm and effective manner.

The reluctance for loved ones to engage in this process mirrors the reluctance of the addict to enter and engage in treatment.  Both are looking to feel better without the hard work of "letting go of old ideas" and developing a new "manner of living".  The best way to start a conversation with an addict is to say "We've been so focused on trying to fix you that we haven't seen how deeply we've been impacted.  We've decided that we're going to get help for ourselves and put on hold deciding what to do regarding your addiction and our relationship.  We'll let you know what we've decided after we get a foundation in our own recovery."

For those of you who still want to call we can help you develop an effective strategy that will increase your loved one's chances of getting help.  However, you should be aware that the chances of that strategy succeeding increases exponentially if you seek your own healing and recovery as well.