How To Help A Loved One Overcome Substance Abuse And Addiction

A major focus of my blog is Health and Wellness. Substance abuse can become a lifelong struggle for some people – sometimes our friends and relatives, and it’s not always clear in terms of how to help them. The following contributed post is thus entitled; How To Help A Loved One Overcome Substance Abuse And Addiction.

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Learning that a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol is a scary, stressful, and upsetting experience. Naturally, you want to help them, but with so many people telling you that “they’ll only stop when they’re ready,” you can be left feeling conflicted and helpless. Thankfully, while it’s true that an addict is the only person who can make positive changes in their life, there are still steps that you can take to kickstart these changes and try to curb addictive behaviors. With that in mind, here are a few things that you can do to help a loved one overcome their addiction.

Never Turn A Blind Eye
Reaching out to someone with a drug or alcohol problem is never easy, which often leads friends and family members to turn a blind eye and ignore toxic behaviors. However, the person that you’re worried about is never going to know that you’re concerned until you tell them that you are. While this may be an uncomfortable conversation, it’s important that you open up these lines of communication and try to make a difference. If you don’t, it’s unlikely that anything will change.

Intervene Before Things Get Serious
Ideally, this initial conversation should occur before anything gets too serious. All too often, families and friends wait until there is a major crisis, like an arrest, sacking, overdose, or another serious health issue, before they take action and decide that enough is enough. However, like other illnesses, addiction can be best treated during the earlier stages. For this reason, you should start a conversation and express your concerns the moment toxic behaviors begin.

Don’t Shame Or Pass Judgment
Alcoholics and drug addicts rarely start taking drugs or drinking heavily for no reason. More often than not, there is an underlying issue that they struggle with, like anxiety or depression, and they take drug and alcohol as a way to self-medicate. It’s important that you recognize these reasons and avoid passing judgment or shaming the person that you’re worried about. Usually, this will make them feel worse about themselves, which will only make them use more.

Offer Professional Help And Support
Addicts need the support of those that care about them, but, most of the time, they also need help from a professional. After all, they have years of knowledge on addiction and know the best ways to help. They also have access to medical professionals, like LifeBrite Laboratories, who can run tests and ensure that your loved one has definitely stopped using. This is incredibly important as many addicts try to hide their addiction from those around them.

Support Them Through Their Journey
The journey to sobriety isn’t an easy one, and there will be many hurdles for your loved one to face along the way. For this reason, it’s vital that you show that you’re supportive and care about your loved one and their journey. The moment it starts to feel like you can’t be bothered anymore, your friend or family member will notice, and this could impact their recovery. You should also avoid drinking around the person and never enable their toxic behaviors.

Helping a loved one overcome addiction will never be easy, but, hopefully, with the advice and guidance above, you have some idea of how to start.

Chris Herren discusses his journey, drug addiction, substance abuse and wellness

“Look at the first day, and not the worst day.”

The first principle of my blog is “Creating Ecosystems of Success” of which health and wellness are major aspects.  Personal stories also fall under this principle as they are one of the most powerful means of teaching individuals about success and failure.  Recently, three high schools in Northern Virginia hosted a very special guest who shared his life journey starting from his days as a high school basketball standout, to his college basketball stardom, to his ascension to the National Basketball Association (NBA), and then his personal struggles with drug addiction and substance abuse along the way.

On Oct. 2 Chris Herren visited Northern Virginia to talk to students and families about his basketball journey and his lifelong struggle with drug addiction and substance abuse.  In the first of many local stops, Herren spoke at Fairfax High School to an audience of all students in the morning, and then to adults, families and the general public in the evening.  I first heard part of Chris’s story years ago on the Jim Rome Show, and then I watched ESPN’s powerful documentary on his life and journey, Unguarded.  I learned about his visit a couple of weeks ago by chance after Tweeting to Chris’s foundation ‘The Herren Project’.  I told them that I would’ve definitely attended one of his talks in Massachusetts if I lived there.  They shared that he would be making an appearance in early October in the DC area, and as a lover of sports stories, I knew that I had to attend.

Chris Herren was one of the top 20 high school basketball players coming out of Durfee High School in 1994 with multiple offers to some of the nation’s top college basketball programs.  It was in high school where he first experimented with alcohol – something he had seen his father do growing up.  After playing just a little bit for Boston College, he failed a drug test which almost ended his career.  He received a second chance from a legendary coach who had given numerous young men second chances throughout his career – legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian also known as “Tark the Shark”, who had taken over as head coach at Fresno State University where I first saw Chris play on television.  There he played his way into being the 33rd overall pick for the Denver Nuggets in the 1999 NBA Draft.  He was later traded to the Boston Celtics where his drug problems escalated, and then went on to play overseas in Italy where his life further spiraled downwards before setting off on his road to recovery years later.

“The kids across the room who didn’t do anything, they had something I didn’t have,” Chris said in his strong New England accent, describing one of the high school parties he attended where he and his friends consumed alcohol underage, while another set of kids across the room didn’t consume anything and were fine with it.  During his talk, Chris told many stories about his journey which involved experimentation and addiction to Cocaine, OxyContin, and finally Heroin – all while becoming a father and a professional basketball player.  This particular story was significant because it touched on something many young people struggle with well into adulthood; personal contentment and self-esteem.

The significance of Chris’s opening quote of this post is to get people to note where our personals problems start and their root causes, as opposed to focusing solely on the end results – substance abuse, drug overdoses, suicides, and many others.  His just happened to be his father’s struggle with alcoholism, his mother’s resulting pain, and then the experimentation with drugs and alcohol amongst his peers early on as teens.  Chris’s other over-arching message was about “Wellness”, and how both parents and schools need to be more vigilant and aware of the struggles of young people which can lead to any number of injurious outcomes later in life if not caught early and addressed.

“Over the last seven years I’ve had the responsibility of sharing my story in front of a million kids.  I truly believe in my heart that I’ve made a difference for some, and I do this for many reasons,” Chris Herren said opening up his talk.  “When it comes to addiction, I think we’ve gone horribly wrong.  I think we put way too much focus on the worst day, and we forget about the first day.

“It’s safe as parents to show our children pictures of drug addicts and how to watch a movie and at the end explain to them what happened.  It’s hard to sit them down at 15 years old and say honestly, ‘Please tell me why you’re letting this begin.’

After telling his story, Chris took questions from the audience – parents and teens, whom he also makes himself available to through email.  Afterwards he graciously took pictures with those of us in the audience and took further questions individually.  I seized the opportunity to ask him one to two more.

“He’s one of the people that I will unconditionally love for the rest of my life.  I did the eulogy at his funeral at the Thomas and Mack Center in front of 12,000 people.  What I told everyone that night is that he meant the world to me.  He changed me,” Chris reflected afterwards when I asked him to say a few words on Jerry Tarkanian.  “I do what I do today because he did that for me.”

“He gave me a second chance and I truly believe people are worth second chances.  If we didn’t give second chances to people in recovery, we’d be much worse off.  He instilled that in me and it continues in my life today.”

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Lasting lessons basketball taught me: Reflections on three years of basketball camp
Lasting lessons basketball taught me part one: An introduction
Lasting lessons basketball taught me part two: Life lessons
Jason Rowe discusses Buffalo Traditional Basketball, the Yale Cup and State Tournaments
Buffalo Traditional’s Jason Rowe discusses his college and professional careers and coaching

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