Assisting a loved one, who also happens to be a first responder, to recover from substance abuse can result in many unexpected responses.
While we genuinely want what is best for family, friends, and our closest colleagues, the strain of addiction impacts more people than the individual experiencing it. The repercussions of addictive behavior usually extend to the person’s family, immediate social circle, colleagues at work, and beyond.
The role that friends and family take on when a loved one struggles with addiction almost resembles the job responsibility of a first responder.
The feeling of being “on-call” for a person who has the potential to go into crisis at any moment and constantly remaining open to the prospect of intervening for your loved one requires both empathy and vigilance, the same characteristics that first responders use to do their jobs.
Helping a first responder through substance abuse leaves both parties with many questions and without a clear-cut path forward, especially when that person is used to being the one helping others.
Growth and healing will require understanding and openness for both parties, as everyone learns how to approach recovery together.
Here are four effective methods that you can utilize to assist a first responder in recovery.
Admitting the person has an addiction
Just as a person dealing with addiction is prone to denying an unhealthy relationship with substances, admitting that your loved one is dealing with addiction is difficult too.
The stigma surrounding addiction causes many addicts to harbor extreme guilt or denial, often encouraging them to hide the signs of their addiction.
Codependency within family and personal relationships can make it difficult to understand whether a loved one is communicating openly and honestly. Even if a person is a hero at work, they can still be an addict; remember, advocating for truth within a relationship shows how much you care.
People struggling with substance abuse can be prone to unexpected mood swings, frequently lashing out at those closest to them.
First responders encounter events and situations that many of us couldn’t imagine. But, if you notice your loved one drinking or using alone in excess, talking about their desire to drink or use when unprompted, or being unable to enjoy themselves when sober, you may want to consider having a conversation with them about it.
Talking to them about addiction
Speaking with your loved one when you suspect they may have a problem with substances can be met with resistance, especially if they’re still performing heroic acts at work. Still, this first step is crucial. And much like a first responder who arrives to assist, this intervention can be life-saving.
The most productive conversations come from a place of truth, allowing friends and family to share how their loved one’s addiction affects them. There are many different strategies for having healthy conversations about addiction, but the truth, vulnerability, and simplicity are common themes for all of them.
By expressing compassion and love for the person struggling with addiction, you can appeal to their empathy and hopefully lead them to understand the need for help.
Encourage progress and show you care
Although addiction is a self-consuming condition in many ways, the key to changing the perspective of an addicted person lies in revealing to them how it feels on the other side of their behavior. Sharing your perspective can encourage the struggling person to choose a path of recovery by reinforcing the need for change.
Researching the effects of addiction goes a long way in understanding how to offer the best possible assistance. Taking action to encourage recovery can strengthen the relationship between you and your loved one.
In many cases, a first responder battling addiction will try their best to hide it from their partners at work. They may not want anyone else to know, making your support even more valuable. Embarking on a commitment to sober living with someone in your corner almost always leads to growth in understanding and comradery.
Stay emotionally available
When a person finally understands the need for change in their relationship with substances, they travel through a risky path, but they don’t have to travel alone.
If you know someone making this type of change in their life, help them conduct research to locate an appropriate treatment facility, like First Responder Wellness. Let them know that you’re there to help in any way that you can.
The responsibility for overcoming addiction ultimately falls on the person in recovery, and while it’s natural to want to help our loved ones, it’s also important to set independent boundaries.
You need to understand that one person can only do so much. Our loved ones deserve the best care and assistance out there; it just so happens that the best way to provide it is usually by encouraging them to seek help from professional clinical therapists.
It’s time for your first responder to stop focusing on helping others and do the work to help themselves.