Worried a Loved One is Facing Addiction? Trust Your Intuition
Family members of people with addiction or mental illness should listen to that inner voice telling them something’s not right.
By Marc Hertz
Something is going on with your loved one, and you suspect alcohol, drugs or mental illness may be the cause. Maybe something obvious has happened, like you’ve found a stash of empty liquor bottles in the garage, or you came across some syringes at the bottom of your loved one’s sock drawer. Or maybe it’s not so obvious. They’re not relating with you in the same way they used to. Doors are closed that used to be open, literally or figuratively. Are you making a big deal out of nothing? Or is there real cause for concern? Here are some red flags to watch for:
Your loved one has stopped being relational.
Relating to family members, friends and the community at large is an important part of being a healthy human being. Often, one of the first things family members notice about a loved one who is struggling with addiction or mental illness is that he or she stops relating to them in a healthy manner—or relating to them at all. With adolescents, it can be particularly tricky to sort out what’s normal developmentally and what’s cause for concern.
If your 15-year-old son has started closing his bedroom door more often, that could be a typical response to puberty. But if that same boy has also gone from being an A student to failing his classes, or he’s lost interest in being with friends, that might be a sign of a more serious problem. With adults, it can sometimes be easier to identify a relational change because they don’t have the excuse of being a moody teenager.
Your loved one is trying to convince you that you’re crazy.
Addicts and alcoholics have a vested interest in shifting attention away from them and onto you. If you’ve tried to talk to your loved one about their drug or alcohol use and found yourself in the defensive position over something completely unrelated, or you’re being accused of paranoia or unfounded suspicion, it’s good to take a moment and think it through. For many family members, this kind of dynamic can go on for months, years or even decades, and after a while, it’s really difficult to tell the true from the false. You might feel like you’re going crazy because the truth is, you are going crazy. It would be difficult not to, if you’re living with an active addict or someone with untreated mental illness.
Your loved one is exhibiting some classic external symptoms of addiction or mental illness.
Including the following:
- Neglecting work, school or other obligations
- Ignoring grooming or hygiene
- Inability to account for money or time
- Declining health
- Legal consequences
You may be tempted to try to “help” your loved one with these issues by solving these problems for them. The truth is, your attempt to help might actually enable the behavior to continue. After you’ve identified these issues are going on, resist the urge to swoop in and save the day.
You might have been trying to deal with your loved one’s drug or alcohol use or behavioral issues by yourself for a long time. Here at FRrē, we would ask you whether that’s been working. The answer is complicated but is usually no. The truth is, behavioral issues do not self-correct. It’s very rare for someone with mental illness or drug or alcohol problems to get better on their own. Usually, it just gets worse.
Whether it’s our spouse, our children or other loved ones, we can often know whether something’s wrong just by laying eyes on them and trusting our intuition. Pay attention to that feeling. And let us help you sort out what’s going on. We’re mental health and addiction experts, and we can help you figure this out. You can’t do this on your own.
—Marc Hertz founded Family Recovery Resource Experts with a passion for helping not just the individual suffering from addiction or mental health issues, but his or her family as well.