Do you live in WA state and want to help a family member or a loved one who is struggling with addiction? This article may help you navigate what next steps you can take to help them and yourself.
The state of Washington is known for many things. It’s the home state of Microsoft, Amazon and Nintendo of America. And despite being the home state of so many major tech innovators, it also features some of the most gorgeous forests and natural beauty you can ask for.
Sadly, Washington state is known for something else as well. It boasts one of the highest drug use rates in the United States. Drug use is a problem for about 10-15 percent of everyone over the age of 12 in Washington state, and that’s not even counting the people who struggle with the biggest source of substance abuse – alcohol.
Now, there’s certainly a big difference between drug use, abuse and addiction. But because of the nature of addiction, it’s impossible to separate these stages entirely, as it’s all tied together biologically. Drug use puts people in a position to abuse drugs. And drug abuse puts people in the position to contract the vicious disease that is addiction.
All of this is a bigger problem in Washington state than it is in most other areas in the country.
As a result, there’s a good chance you or someone you know has struggled with addiction in the past, or perhaps is struggling right now. And as much as you know they’re struggling to overcome this problem, it’s painful for you, too.
You feel about as powerless to help as they feel to fight back. They’re behaving in ways you’ve never seen from them before. It’s an emotional roller coaster, filled with ups and downs, and you never know which way it’s going to turn next, and that’s scary and unsettling.
Still, the person next to you is going through hell, and you want to do whatever you can to help them get through it. Your only problem is, you don’t know what to do. You don’t know what you can do. That’s understandable, and that’s what we’re here to answer.
Here are some places to start.
Encourage Them to Start Addiction Treatment in WA State
It seems like a simple thing, and it is. But it’s not necessarily easy. Getting an addict into treatment in the first place is by far the most important thing you can do. Without that, chances are there won’t be any recovery to help with, only the continuation of the downward spiral.
It doesn’t matter if you get them into a full time inpatient rehab, or IOP treatment, or support groups. If your loved one isn’t in treatment, it may be because they don’t believe they truly have a problem. If that’s the case, maybe a good first step is to get them an addiction assessment in Washington state to see if their substance use is a problem, and how serious it is.
The first step towards recognizing (and ultimately treating) addiction is often the most difficult. Those who are suffering usually don’t recognize that they’re suffering. They almost certainly don’t see the hardship their affliction is putting on the people around them. Their condition makes it difficult for them to see consequences clearly.
Addiction tends to help people do the mental gymnastics necessary to justify anything, because it bumps a drug fix up the list of priorities so far, it eventually becomes “worth the risk” no matter how great those risks get. When they’re in a mindset where they’ll do anything to use again, proposing the idea of not using ever again sounds to them like the worst thing imaginable.
Because of that, the odds that an addict is going to come to the revelation that they need to quit without a strong jolt of some kind is unlikely. For many people that jolt comes in the form of irreparable damage to their life, like:
- Losing their job
- Hurting a loved one (physically or emotionally)
- Running into trouble with the law
- Losing friends and close relationships
- Sliding into debt and ignoring bills
But if you’re there with them, you can get to them before those serious consequences do. They probably won’t listen at first. They’ll downplay the problem, insisting they are in total control and could quit if they wanted to. They may try to hide their substance abuse from you in an attempt to make you believe the problem has been solved. Be on the lookout for them getting more secretive once you’ve started mentioning their substance abuse as a problem.
That’s okay. Stay persistent. Ask them about it regularly. Make sure they know you haven’t forgotten about it.
Don’t be aggressive or confrontational, don’t throw past mistakes in their face, and don’t try to “shame” them into treatment. Those are approaches that are proven to make the problem worse, not better.
Be firm, but compassionate. Make sure they know you’re concerned for their well-being. That may result in an eye roll, but it’s better than making them defensive.
All you’re trying to get them to do is take the first step. Even if all they do is get an addiction assessment to stop you from nagging at them, it’s a small step in the direction of them acknowledging the problem. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and persistence and patience are the most important virtues to have here.
Supporting Someone Currently in Rehab in Washington State
Rehab is a difficult time for everyone involved. It won’t be much easier for you than it is for them. But the most important role you have as the loved one of a recovering addict in rehab can be summed up in one word:
A person entering rehab in Washington state, or any state for that matter, is right around the lowest point they’ll ever be in their lives, and they need relentless support. They’re likely to be wracked with guilt and remorse for their actions, and that isn’t the time to pile on. It’s the time to show your encouragement for their efforts to overcome their disease.
Their belief in their own ability to recover is weak or nonexistent at this point. Never will it be more important for you to believe in them than at this exact moment. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but a recovering addict needs every source of motivation they can get to overcome and move forward with their life.
Few motivations will be stronger than the desire to not disappoint a loved one who has put their full faith in them. Your faith in them may well be their reason to stick through a tough stretch of recovery, and you reinforce that every time you give them an encouraging word.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to always treat them with kid gloves. Compassion and support are important, but it is also important to air out the past. Your loved one’s addiction has likely affected you negatively, and you don’t have to just sit on that and accept it.
However, there is a time and place to air these grievances. Many rehabilitation clinics offer joint therapy sessions, where you can join your loved one to talk about how their substance abuse has hurt you. This might be the perfect time to talk out some of the ways your loved one’s addiction has affected you, at a time where a mediator can help facilitate an open and honest discussion without being overridden by defensiveness.
There’s a lot of this that may sound unfair to you. A big part of this probably just sounds like, “put your problems on hold, and grin and bear it for them.” Honestly, that’s true, it isn’t fair. Addiction isn’t fair. It’s painful and causes suffering for everyone. That’s why you have to work together to bring that suffering to an end.
There are a lot of ways to cope with the emotional distress brought on by addiction, and it’s completely normal for you to feel hurt, betrayed, frustrated and even bitter. But taking it out on the one trying to recover from it – even if they’re the one you feel caused the problem in the first place – is not going to help you move forward on the road to freeing you both from its shackles.
Support Groups in Washington State for Coping With Your Loved One’s Addiction
Your job as the supporter of a recovering addict is to let them know they’re not alone, that they have someone to lean on while they struggle to get their life back.
But while you’re doing that, you may very well feel isolated and alone yourself. You can’t vent to your loved one, who is going through their own issues. You probably don’t want to talk too much about it to your other friends and family, lest they start to develop negative ideas about your loved one.
It feels like nobody understands what you’re going through, and you can’t really do much to make anyone understand. But that’s not true.
You may not see them or be connected with them, but there are people all over the state of Washington who are struggling the same way you are – wanting to be helpful and supportive of their recovering loved ones, but also needing support themselves.
There are so many people like that, in fact, that there are specific groups for families of recovering addicts. You may have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous, also known as AA. You may have also heard of its lesser-known associate, Narcotics Anonymous (or NA).
But did you know there are partner support groups in Washington state and all over the country for both of those organizations, specifically geared toward helping the loved ones of recovering addicts?
Al-Anon is a group for families of recovering alcoholics to get support coping with the complicated emotional turmoil that comes with loving an alcoholic. Alateen is a subset of Al-Anon specifically geared at teenagers.
Similarly, Nar-Anon is for families of recovering drug addicts.
These groups do not cost anything to attend, and both focus on coping mechanisms for loved ones of addicts. But more than just providing support, it is also a place to learn and share strategies about how to better support those loved ones in their recovery.
There are other support groups and addiction resources in Washington State than just AA and NA-affiliated groups, so you have several choices for you and your loved one when trying to find the best option for support.
Moving Forward With Addiction Recovery Together in Washington State
After rehab is over, you’d like to believe you’ve weathered the storm and the worst is over. That is mostly true, but it’s never truly over. The effects of addiction will definitely dwindle after rehab, and it will start to feel like your life is finally returning to normal. Enjoy that, because you have your life back and so does your loved one. But you must stay diligent.
As with any disease, relapse is a constant threat with addiction. Once a person has become addicted and recovered from it, they’re often just one use away from falling back in, potentially even deeper than before.
You can help prevent that by helping your loved one stay away from old habits and the circumstances that led them to addiction in the first place. Try to avoid going back to the “same old, same old” life routine – because substance abuse was a part of that old routine. Try to introduce new activities and mix things up. Take up a hobby together or change up your usual activities. This is an opportunity for a fresh start, so make it feel that way, and start planning your new life together.
Have you had any experiences trying to support recovering addicts in Washington state? What challenges did you face, and how did you finally make progress? Share your story in the comments below, so others can learn from your experiences!