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When you get sucked into the whirlwind that is the life of someone addicted to drugs, you realize that their addiction didn’t start at the moment they completely succumbed to utter chaos, but much earlier than that. I’m not here to explain the psychological reasons behind addiction, or why some people are more prone to abuse substances than others, or even how. This is merely an attempt on my part to relate some of the lessons I learned from loving and living with an  addicted person.

Noticing signs of addiction

Addiction manifests in a multitude of ways, and you don’t pick up on it right away, at least in my experience. You start noticing small things first, for instance, getting back home later than usual, more frequent mood swings, picking fights over nothing just to find an excuse to go out and such. What follows is you trying to arrange every piece of the puzzle you have into a coherent picture. You start retracing your steps, trying to figure out what went wrong or when, what triggered the sudden changes. Then when you realize your picture is incomplete, you find refuge in other people, you make inquiries, and you try to find out as much as you can.


Struggling to accept someone you love has hidden something so serious

When the unsettling realization dawns on you, you’re still in disbelief, your brain fails to register addiction as a possibility. Surely your precious spouse, child, parent or friend cannot have an addiction?! You feel like you’ve been pushed too far but your brain is still grasping at straws trying to put every little occurrence in perspective. Your understanding of the situation is much clearer, now you have a compelling reason to justify their every act. Except, it’s not enough… it never is. And now you feel enraged. The wild swirl of thoughts running through your mind is overwhelming, to say the least, and you’re wondering whether you ought to confront them or wait for them to confess. Will they ever confess?


Handling your own emotions after you find out

You choose not to say anything at first, instead, you start observing the way they act, trying to discern any glimpse of difference between the person in front of you and the person you used to know and love.


“Are they sober at the moment or are they under the influence” is going to become a frequent question you ask yourself, and more often than not, the trigger to many future altercations.


You wake up from yesterday’s argument feeling drained, wondering how the day has just begun and yet you have nothing left to give. You promised yourself you would try your best to help them, even when they’ve become so hard to love. Yet you find yourself walking on eggshells when they’re around, that gut-wrenching knot forming in the pit of your stomach, for fear of uttering the wrong words that will cause the volcano to erupt. But what you don’t know yet is that the volcano has been in constant eruption for quite some time, regardless of what you say or do.


Understand what addiction feels

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Life of an opioid addict – and what it should tell you


Finding the inner strength to help an addicted person

Now that everything is out in the open, you’re determined to find enough hope and strength to help the drug addict in them repent. Your brain still has some trouble connecting between the two people that stand in front of you. Under the influence, they’re the devil incarnate, but when sober, you see lamentation and self-reproach in their eyes. Under the influence, you vow to relinquish the hope you have for them getting better. When sober, you get softer, more compassionate. They promise you to stop, and for one more time, you believe them. You believe them because you have to. You believe them for the sake of your sanity. You believe them because what other choice do you really have. The cycle repeats itself, and you find your optimism to border the lines of delusion.


Learning what you are supposed to do

You realize how unprepared you are to deal with a drug addict, you never learned about it in school. Granted, they warn us about the dangers of addiction, and perhaps even the consequences, but never how to handle a drug addict, let alone help them. So you read books, you watch documentaries, you suggest seeing a therapist. You even turn to unconventional ways like hypnosis or weaker drugs. These ‘solutions’ are merely a scratch on the surface of the monster that is addiction. You’re at your wit’s end. You’re just about ready to give up when they ask for your help, once again. Except, this time it’s not verbal. You notice they have gotten much worse, to the point where every act they engage in is an unequivocal call for help. So you think of the last possible course of action you can afford and you make the mutual decision to sign them up for a drug rehab center.


Going to a rehabilitation centre

You send ‘the drug addict’ off hoping to get the person back. Their journey of physical, emotional, and mental healing begins. They go beyond overcoming the symptoms of their illness, and deeper into the catalysts, triggers, and psychological reasons behind their addiction. With the help of certified counsellors, therapists, and medical doctors, each drug addict gets a personalized treatment depending on their circumstances.

Rehabilitation centres offer a safe space for drug addicts so they can get the professional help and support they need.

This is the first and most important step towards reintegrating society and rebuilding their lives. Treatments unfold gradually, allowing addicts to pace themselves without feeling overwhelmed or smothered. It’s a slow, and at times, a painful process, but it’s absolutely necessary. Finding the motivation to get better is not impossible, but what’s more challenging is maintaining that ambition. Drug rehab centres aim to give addicts their lives back through intensive care, therapy, and constructive activities.


Rebuilding trust and rebuilding life

So what comes after rehab? Following a complete detoxification and rehabilitation program, the recovering addict has to go back to their normal life, or what’s left of it. Completing rehab is a commendable accomplishment, but recovering addicts still have to face the consequences of their past actions. And so begins the process of rebuilding trust.

Research suggests that chances of a relapse are higher during the first six months after treatment.

Recovering addicts should opt for continued support after rehab, as they can join social groups that promote sobriety and a clean lifestyle. They can also see a therapist or contact their sponsor when they feel most vulnerable or more inclined to relapse. Regular check-ups with a mental health professional are also encouraged to maintain accountability and restraint. Finding new non-drug-centered activities can be a bit challenging, but recovering addicts should cut ties with their former social group in favour of a more suitable one. Setting up a daily routine can be very grounding, it helps provide a sense of structure and stability that recovering addicts absolutely need. It will also help them rebuild their relationships with friends and family, as well as maintain long-lasting sobriety.


Know of a loved one who is struggling with an addiction? It’s not just them who needs help, you need a guiding hand to help you through the process too. Speak to a counsellor and we’ll help you plan out your next steps.