The biggest curse that any family could face in today’s times is ‘when any of its family members is addicted to some substance e.g. Alcohol, Drugs or any of similar genre’. Very often family members write to me in super exhaustion- ‘Do anything but cure my son/ daughter’. Forget about the family progress, even basics of life go awry for those families. Strange na that life expects one to have many good habits to be super successful in life but only one bad addiction can render one perpetually drowned in abyss of gloom (not only for oneself but also for the entire family). Addiction could be to anything – smoking, drinking, drugs, sex, internet, gaming, sitcoms (Netflix) and Mobile phone etc. Sometimes, to people. And sometimes also to sleeplessness.
Almost everyone in that ecosystem gets involved and gets affected as well. Most affected is the addict (although he will never accept that he is the Problem and will always blame everyone else for problems in his life).I myself have been a close witness to many such cases. Some recovered fully(a super alcoholic friend is now a full marathon runner), others still addicted & blaming the world. And in the process all these years, I learned ‘What exactly you can do to help someone you love Quit Addiction?
But how do people become addicts?All of us have “pain points” in our personal and professional lives (this Karmic world is like that). The error that we often make is that we process that pain a lot!We like to make our pain, the screensaver of our mind.
For an addict, this processing of pain becomes like second nature. They start viewing the world through the lens of that pain. They look for easy ways to numb it, hoping smoking, drugs or alcohol would fix them (never does). Often addicts tend to start defining themselves through those drugs or obsessions and this stuff becomes their effort (although misguided) to calm & comfort themselves.
And I know how taxing it can be for their friends and families. If you have someone in your life who needs to kick an addiction off, here’s what you can do to help them:
All my collected experience as a Motivational Speaker tells me that a great support system can give an addict a much needed impetus to work towards his sobriety (my paramount learning & summary of all researches on Quitting Addictions).
The friends / family members who are handling this situation in their lives need to let this sink deep inside their hearts that ‘People in our lives – our families, amongst our closest friends – are living their karmic sufferings with various intensities.
The most beautiful realization I had recently is – to not shout back or confront someone who is already suffering from that emotional pain. We have no right, sitting on a higher, more comfortable pedestal, to judge someone whose luck is not good as ours; or to judge someone lower than us because they themselves are driving their life car with their hand brake on. It is like publishing the reviews of their vehicle performance. Preposterous right?’
Grace and kindness is what is needed with such people in our lives. Talking less helps too, if talking more usually complicates things. If we can’t talk to them, sending positive vibes and praying for them helps big time too! Empathy is sometimes the best medicine they need.
Addicts often don’t listen to their family members. They tend to start believing that any person who empathizes with them is a good person and anyone who disagrees with them is otherwise. Parents and siblings often fall into that other category 🙂
But then they listen to their friends. So find the courage to not give up on your friend who is suffering. There never will be a more difficult time when your friend will be in need and you can be that friend indeed. Friendships work because they are less likely to resent you as a friend than as a family member.
One mistake people often do is – forget themselves totally during the ordeal. Don’t compromise on your physical and mental well-being while you care for the person who is suffering. You won’t be any good to them if you end up needing support too. Take care of your health, and do ensure you set your limits and boundaries – if that’s what makes you more supportive or efficient. If you think a line needs to be drawn somewhere, do not hesitate to draw one. Because – the support has to come from within, a 100%.
Trigger Free Environment
Triggers are an important reason behind any addict’s risk of relapse. Their pain is always so borderline, anything can send them off the edge.
Our job is to ensure that they distance themselves mentally, physically and emotionally from anything, anyone or anyplace that can send them back to their choice of addiction. If you are helping someone you love quit, watch out for their triggers. It is important that you identify them and try to create an environment sans those button pushers.
It might sometimes require:
- Sherlockian skills of observation, and
- Exceptional levels of patience
You need to converse normally with them, find out what they need, their pains, their pressures, and their weaknesses. And do it all without any condescending words or patronizing behaviour. No matter how childish their highs are, they want to be treated like adults who are capable of their own decision making. You don’t need to babysit them while they recover. Just try to walk the path with them, without too much hand-holding and spoon feeding (that’s when rehab takes over).
Most addicts are always looking to numb their pain. They just want to change how they feel because they can’t currently deal with how they feel. So, we need to create a drug / addiction free environment that still allows them to feel better. Newer experiences and neural pathways that allow the brain to find joy without shooting something up their noses.
That requires patience, tolerance and determination too. But it is very much doable.
Fill the empty spaces
Addicts often find themselves with empty spaces in their lives, when they have no clue what they are doing. Helping them find ways to use their time constructively is an important step in their recovery. Our jobs, as their loved ones, is to keep them occupied and with good stuff, so they don’t go to the bad.
It is important to remember the battle of fighting and quitting addiction can’t be won in one day. No one stops smoking or drinking in one day and no one stops obsessing over the other sex in one day either (You may want to read: Vicky Loner’s Guide to Overcoming Sex Addiction). It shouldn’t feel like failure to them; and their failure shouldn’t feel like a failure to you. They just need time and will power to process it.
You need to sublime the addiction and the pain by helping them take one day at a time. If they are giving into temptation within 3 days, try getting them through the 4th day. Slowly help them increase it to seven, then 10, then 15 days. One day at a time.
Aamir Khan said it right – “Dil idiot hai pyaar se isko samjhaa le”. Same has to be done with your loved addict 🙂 … Just keep placating them, one day at a time, while ensuring full support and keeping triggers at bay.
Once the mind starts becoming a little stronger, you start filing those empty spaces with productive activities. Help them explore new hobbies, ensure they get physical exercise, encourage them to take up meditation etc. by doing these things with them. For e.g. plan short trips and vacations with them, go out with them for marathons instead of pubs, movies instead of happy hours, chit chat breaks instead of smoke breaks, inspirational conversations instead of sex talks and so on.
Focusing on Fitness
Whenever I have been stressed, a run in the park has benefitted me much more than an hour in front of the laptop doing random things. A fit body is a good home for a fit mind. So out next job is – to make sure they focus on their physical fitness. And it also fits with the fill in the blanks we talked about above.
But the thing with addicts is – they lie, abuse and manipulate when they are being made to do things they don’t want to do. These little shoves in the right direction can often be met with strong resistance (Read: 4 Steps to Deal with Irrational People). But you don’t fall into their trap. You have to very clever about making them go for a run or walk or do 30 minutes of yoga or whichever form of fitness they choose. Here are some things you can do –
- Lead with example: Go with them on those runs or the yoga class. And if you can’t do that, maybe make them join a class and ensure they at least go there. Having company while developing a habit eases the process. You can also join communities with them for e.g. runners’ clubs. A sense of purpose and a company they enjoy will do wonders.
- Offer small rewards to them. For e.g. offering to do something they have been asking for a long time (other than the addiction material of course) if they continue their routine for 15 days.
- Praise them for their discipline, tell them how well they have been handling their addiction. It might just convince them to keep doing it.
- Ensure that they enjoy the process. For e.g. those who love dancing can be taken for Zumba lessons. They are not only hard core and like a one hour cardio, but also immense fun when done with a group of people. You just need to figure out the right fit.
Let that adrenaline flow. It helps keep the desire to rush other things through their veins in check!
Apps to help them quit
This is more of a technological intervention. There are numerous apps these days that help people quit their addictions. They can help make quitting plans, track doses and expenses, send daily goals and reminders, provide reward badges, analyse patterns and provide other user stats etc. Here is a list of some of the apps that have been designed to assist in quitting various forms of addiction.
It is quite wonderful, the amount of thought that has been put behind these by the developers. Some of these are paid but most of them are free of cost. Your need to find the app that suits their need best and convince them to keep using it, because no matter how hard you try you can’t be with them 24×7. Their temptations and impulses are strong, and they need to be convinced that if support is not available when they need, they will have to go to the app for help. Our aim is to slowly build self-reliance.
But it is also important to remain watchful and not leave everything on the apps.
The pain of an addict is like a disprin tablet; & they will get into the habit / loop of doing gargles with it. The sound of their continuous gargling might become noise to others. And raise the chaos-decibel in their own life; which is what we have to prevent as we help them quit.
The thing to be remembered most, for our own sanity is – that we can only give them help till they are receiving and reciprocating. We do what we do out of love or duty. But we don’t owe them our entire lives. As the saying goes, you can take the horse to the well but you can’t make it drink. You can support your loved ones as they recover from addictions but you can’t undergo the process for them.
So, if ever there is a need for you to stop, you do that. Siblings, relatives and friends will walk away one day but parents are most helpless here as the umbilical cord never ever breaks. They will keep on hoping for miracles and magic which rarely happen. But this is deeply incorrect as well. By choosing to be crutches to the addict family member (even after trying everything else in the world) you are just not allowing him sufficiency to stand on his own feet.
Have a plan. Dedicate yourself fully to the process of execution of that plan of helping someone you love quit addiction. If nothing is working and you think you have tried everything- THIS then is highest time to quit the chase and begin working for your own mental peace. Leave the person to his own karma & destiny (even if he/she is your own child). This might just work at the end of it. You have nothing to lose by doing that.