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Addiction Help: ‘My loved one has an addiction. What can I do?’

Counseling Service of Addison County and The Addison County Committee on Opiate Addiction have teamed to put together a series of articles for our community this summer. Our hope is that this column offers information, support and hope for addiction recovery, specifically opiate addiction (heroin/painkillers).
This week’s writer is Jessi de Boer, who is a licensed alcohol and drug counselor and a licensed clinical mental health counselor, is coordinator of Adult Recovery Services at CSAC.
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As a loved one it is heartbreaking to see this terrible disease of the brain in action. This disease hurts family, friends, partnerships, job relationships and almost everything in its path. When you are aware that this disease is in your home or hurting a loved one there is support you can offer.
First, get yourself some support. Our local Turning Point Center and local 12-step programs offer a group called Al-Anon. This is a free support group for loved ones of people who have addiction. At these meetings you can surround yourself with people who are experiencing the same struggle you are. The support is amazing and can be very helpful.
Second, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Denial and dishonesty are common symptoms with this disease. A loved-one may say, “It’s not that bad, I don’t use that much, I’ve seen people who are worse,” and on and on. Don’t be afraid to keep talking and saying, “I am really worried, it is very bad. This disease kills people. We need to get you help.”
Next, be prepared to make changes in your life. This disease, like a tumor, will grow and grow if it is not treated. The person who is ill with this disease will not stop until it becomes uncomfortable to continue to use. Sometimes helping means not doing some of the things loved ones do. Sometimes helping means setting limits; asking the person with this disease to seek treatment or move out. These changes will be so difficult and you will need support to decide what the best options are for your situation.
You will find, if you haven’t already, that giving money does not work to help this disease. People who have addiction often take money and use it for drugs or alcohol (even if they say they’re using it for something else for example rent, electric bills, car payments, etc.). When you give money you are indirectly helping the disease to grow stronger. Your bank account will be empty and the loved one will still be sick.
Lastly, if a loved one refuses help that is their choice. This is such a heartbreaking situation to be in and all you can do is offer your support and let the person who is using know that you will help them when they are ready! There is hope and there are many treatment options that we will discuss in this column next time to learn more about medications, rehabilitation and even a specific type of acupuncture that can help treat this disease. The most important thing for you, is to get support and to continue to get that support throughout the process. 

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