Being a relationship with anyone can be a challenge. You have to constantly communicate what you are both feeling to each other, and you have to be willing to adjust your own behavior to meet your partner’s needs. Being a parent, sibling, or relative can also be difficult at times. This is especially true if the person we love–our partner, our brother, our sister, our parent–is an alcoholic or an addict. There are several things you need to remember when you love an alcoholic or addict.
Do not take it personally when the person you love slips up and relapses. Even though they know drinking and using drugs is destructive, addiction is still a disease. If someone is early recovery, it’s likely that they are going to slip up at some point. It may make you angry, but the best way to react to the situation is with understanding, kindness, and forgiveness. Be firm and encourage your loved one to start over again tomorrow with his or her recovery. Do not panic and end the relationship when your loved one relapses for the first or even second time. Allow them the space to relapse.
Addiction is a disease.
It’s important to remember that addiction is a disease just like cancer or Alzheimer’s. You wouldn’t leave someone or stop speaking to your daughter or son because they developed cancer and started chemotherapy, which made them violently ill. You wouldn’t leave your parent in a nursing home if he or she developed Alzheimer’s and could no longer remember who you are. You have compassion for people with these diseases, and addiction is no different. Do not take it personally. Your loved one is sick.
They need your support.
Your loved one needs you to be supportive. Do not drink or do drugs around your loved one. Be willing to go to meetings with your loved one if he or she wants you to. Be willing to read helpful and supportive literature with them. Maybe try going to church with them or getting them involved in some other activity.
The important thing to remember when you love an alcoholic or addict is that they really need your love. They need you to be compassionate, kind, and forgiving. Because like cancer or any other disease, addiction is a disease that they deserve to be able to fight.
There are several institutions in America that conduct surveys related to substance abuse on an annual basis. These surveys contain valuable information on America’s substance abuse issues. Here are some statistics from the 2015 survey that you need to be aware of.
- It’s estimated that illicit drug use and alcohol abuse have cost over $36 billion in health care costs (National Institute of Drug Abuse).
- The number of total annual deaths because of drug use is well above 50,000 for 2015. That’s up from just 20,000 in 2002 (Centers for Disease Control Prevention).
- 23.5 million people who are age 12 or older required treatment for a substance abuse problem in 2009 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
- The number of opioid prescriptions (such as oxycodone and hydrocodone) has gone up from 76 million in 1991 to 207 million in 2013 (Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control).
- In America alone, over 15 million people abuse prescribed medication (Foundation for a Drug-Free World).
- Between 2007 and 2011, heroin use increased by 75% (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
- 59% of teenagers believe that prescribed medication is safer than illicit drugs from the street (Foundation for a Drug-Free World).
It’s clear when we look at those above figures and statistics that drug abuse has become an epidemic in this country. It’s very important that people be educated and made aware of the ways drugs and alcohol are affecting our communities. Teenagers are experimenting with drugs and alcohol at a younger and younger age.
It may seem like a hopeless situation, but there are also a lot of positive statistics about addicts who have recovered. For example, while the relapse rate of drug addiction is around 40 to 60%, this is actually lower than the relapse rate of hypertension (50 to 70%) and the relapse rate of asthma (50 to 70%) (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
If you are an addict or alcoholic, do not give up hope. There are a ton of success stories about addicts and alcoholics who have overcome their addictions and gone on to be successful people contributing to society. The most important thing is that you get the help that you need in order to successfully conquer your addiction.