Man and woman holding hands in front of brick wall

Watching your loved one struggle with substance abuse and addiction can be distressing. It can be even more difficult when you are unfamiliar with the nature of addiction or have not experienced it yourself. Substance use disorder and addiction are chronic and persistent conditions, which means that without treatment, the consequences of these conditions will only worsen over time.

No matter where your loved one is on their healing journey, it is essential that you know that your support in their treatment and recovery can make all the difference long-term. There are many suggestions that can help you strengthen your ability to care, support, and encourage your loved one to get the help they need from treatment.

Becoming Educated About Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a condition where a person’s recurrent use of substances (such as alcohol or other drugs) causes significant impairment to their quality of life. Impairment might present as emotional dysregulation, cognitive dysfunction, an inability to meet primary personal responsibilities, or other mental and physical health issues.

It can be challenging to recognize SUD in others. Some may engage in drug use openly and publicly, while others do so in private. To understand how to recognize symptoms associated with SUD, it is essential to tune in to your loved one’s actions and habits.

The use of alcohol and other drugs in any quantity may produce effects of aggression, hostility, depression, and even isolation that may be familiar to you. Even when emotional distress is normal, it can be still be challenging to contribute these emotions to substance abuse, especially if your loved one engages in use in secret.

Recognizing Substance Use Disorder Symptoms

There are generally three categories of changes that may surface in a person that struggles with SUD. These categories include behavioral, physical, and social changes.

#1. Behavioral Changes

Behavioral changes might include:

  • Lack of motivation to do anything
  • Reduced attendance in work, school, or other activities
  • Reported problematic behavior, such as getting into fights or engaging in illegal activities
  • Engaging in secretive behavior
  • Changes in personality or behavior without cause
  • Sudden shifts in mood, such as increased irritability
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Episodes of hyperactivity
  • Seemingly more fearful, paranoid, or anxious than normal

#2. Physical Changes

Physical changes might include:

  • Sudden changes in body shape, such as weight loss or weight gain
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Abnormal pupils
  • Unusual smells on breath, clothing, or body
  • Tremors
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired motor coordination

#3. Social Changes

Social changes might include:

  • Shifts in friend groups
  • Shifts in hobbies
  • Getting into legal trouble
  • Financial issues, such as needing more money than normal
  • Continuing to use substances despite the consequences it has on social relationships

Initiating the Conversation

Although it might seem like there is nothing you can do to support your loved one as they experience SUD, there are many ways you can extend your support towards their recovery. It can be difficult to wait around and know what to do, especially when your loved one is not ready for treatment. Waiting for your loved one to make realizations for themselves is not always the best option, as they may lose valuable time that they could be using to get treatment.

One of the most challenging but essential things you can do for your loved one struggling with SUD is to discuss mental health with them openly. Consider these helpful tips:

  • Find time to talk with limited to no distractions.
  • Do not pressure your loved one to open up; instead, allow space for silence during your conversation.
  • Avoid trying to diagnose yourself or your loved one. Assumptions are not helpful. Try to be honest about your concerns, but also understand that your concerns are subjective.
  • Try to balance the negatives with the positives. After you discuss distress, perhaps talk about something you are grateful for.
  • Lead them in the right direction of seeking professional support and guidance.

If your loved one does not want to talk with you, it may be because they fear hurting you. Always validate and reassure them of how much you care for them and support their recovery.

Altering Your Expectations

Another helpful suggestion for supporting your loved one struggling with SUD is to alter your own personal expectations that you may have for them in recovery. If you have never experienced SUD yourself, it’s essential that you understand that addiction is rooted deep in the brain.

Have patience with your loved one during their healing journey. Have the power within you to know that recovery is possible and relapse is not experienced by everyone. Always ask your loved one how you could better support them by asking what they need from you moving forward.

It can be challenging to know how to support your loved one that may be struggling with substance use disorder (SUD). If you want to continue to support your loved one, it is essential that you understand the nature of addiction and substance abuse. Learn about how to recognize the condition in yourself or a loved one by bringing awareness to the signs and symptoms associated with the disorder. Initiate meaningful conversation about mental health. If your loved one is hesitant to discuss their struggles with SUD, be patient and give them time. Sabino Recovery is a treatment center that works to resolve past trauma, anxiety, depression, and mental health disorders alongside substance abuse and addiction. We offer numerous different therapy approaches that will help to individualize your loved one’s care. By starting the conversation, your loved one will soon accept the help they need. Call Sabino for more information at (844) 227-7014.