Addiction is a destructive disease, not only to the addict, but also to their friends and family. It erodes the foundations of relationships and stresses the very fabric that holds families together. Dealing with an addict's self-destructive behaviors can be stressful, exhausting and heart-breaking.

The emotional turmoil of addiction can quickly consume an entire family's stability, unity, mental health, and finances. It is one of the most difficult health issues a person can face, largely because of the toll it takes on everyone around them. Addiction puts serious, repeated stress on everyone affected and continuously damages even the strongest of relationships.

Just like the addict, family and friends can also suffer from denial, unwilling to acknowledge that their loved one is suffering from an addiction. It's easy to get pulled into the web of lies and excuses created to justify an addict's behavior making it difficult to acknowledge that there really is a problem.

Signs That Your Loved One Has An Addiction

While specific symptoms of addiction will vary depending on the affliction in question, there are many signs of addictive behavior that family members and loved ones can watch for. These will generally include unexplained changes in appearance, mood, personality, relationships, or performance at school or work.

Some red flags that may indicate that a loved one is suffering from an addiction include:

  • Personality or attitude changes
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or friends
  • Inability to fulfill responsibilities or obligations
  • Being secretive, evasive, or lying
  • Changes in sleep or energy levels
  • Decreased performance at work or school
  • Unexplained absences
  • Unexplained loss of items and money
  • Frequently getting into trouble
  • Changes in appetite level and weight loss/gain
  • Unexplained illnesses
  • Repeated infections or sores
  • Blackouts or short-term memory loss
  • Persistent sweating
  • Unusual smells or deterioration in personal hygiene
  • Tremors or persistent shaking

When To Prepare For An Intervention

It's always better to get a loved one help sooner rather than later. Some suggest that an addict can't begin to recover or won't accept treatment until they hit "rock bottom", but that is not the case. If you see someone struggling with an addiction, now is the time to consider staging an intervention, don't wait for the problem to worsen.

You don't have to plan or stage an intervention alone. Get the help of a trained intervention specialist to set the goals, plan and lead the intervention. Statistically, interventions conducted with the help of a professional are much more successful.

Living With A Recovering Addict

Recovering from addiction is a lifelong process - the effect addiction has on a family doesn't end when the addict returns from rehab. You must have an understanding that your lives will change. You should create a new life free of the temptations and situations that created the addiction.

Providing support for the recovering addict is the most important thing you can do. Encourage them on a daily basis and recognize their potential. Be understanding and try not to judge or point fingers. However you shouldn't shield them from the consequences of their previous actions, they should be cognizant of the effect their addiction had on others. Make time for relaxation and fun. Show the addict that there are other ways to have fun and relax that are more rewarding than the addiction they are recovering from.

It's very important that you take time for yourself. You also need time to recover and heal emotionally. Never blame yourself. Remember you didn't cause the addiction. Ask for help if you need it. No one expects you to have all the answers.