Very often, we’re taught to think that substance abuse has an archetype personality; a particular set of traits and indicators that make identification and diagnosis quick and easy. Anyone who has every actually dealt with substance abuse knows that it knows no specific stereotype. While there are a few general behaviors that can make friends and loved ones take a second look; however, each person starts abusing drugs or alcohol for different reasons and will consequently have different associative behaviors. How then, do we verify that our loved ones need our help to overcome drug and alcohol abuse? Where do we begin?
The process starts with simply being present in our vulnerable loved ones’ lives and making sure we know what’s happening in their day-to-day routines. We don’t have to be smothering or overbearing, but if we notice a profound change or deviation in their behavior, we should acknowledge it and try to get them to open up to us. We should refrain from judgment because it is likely guilt or shame that is causing them to keep their substance abuse a secret. If they feel confident enough to tell us that they need help, their admissions should be met with support rather than scorn or shame.
Addiction can, and does, happen to all different types of people, from the impoverished and overwhelmed single parent to the high-powered executive or successful professional. When we stop thinking of drug and alcohol abuse as something that only happens to other kinds of people, we become more realistic about our chances of it affecting us and, in turn, more vigilant. We are then better able to recognize the possibility and likelihood that it can affect the people we care about, and better position ourselves to act on their behalf and help them find treatment.