The city of Miami has long been known for its gorgeous coastlines, vibrant nightlife, spectacular cuisine, and thriving arts and culture scene that have made this metropolis in southeastern Florida the subject of numerous movies and TV shows.

But despite its glitzy reputation and the wealth of economic opportunities that it provides to its residents, it is quite unfortunate that the city is not spared from the scourge of substance abuse. As a matter of fact, the city used to be ground zero for what came to be known as the Miami Drug Wars of the 1970s and 1980s, a time when the government of the United States waged a war against the cocaine cartels of South America, most notably the Medellin Cartel of Colombia.

The drug wars have long passed, but Miami continues to experience a longstandanding substance abuse problem. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), some 349,000 persons aged 12 or older in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach metropolitan statistical area suffer from a substance use disorder (SUD) every year. An annual average of 561,000 persons aged 12 or older also use illicit drugs in the metropolis.

These figures can be both alarming and comforting if you were a Miami resident worried about a loved one suffering from addiction. It is distressing to know that the issue is prevalent, but it is also somehow reassuring that you are not the only one going through the struggle. 

Perhaps you are tired of sitting on the sidelines watching a family member throw their life away because of substance use. You want to help but are unsure of how to go about the process. If so, here are five steps to guide you on how to assist a loved one struggling with SUD:

Arm Yourself with Information

The first step to helping someone with a substance use disorder is by educating yourself about the condition. Learning all you can about substance abuse will help you understand what your loved one is going through and appease whatever resentment or anger you may be feeling about the person’s addiction. Education will also straighten out your misconceptions about the disease, especially if you believe that the condition stems from a lack of willpower or weakness in character. It can also help you determine if you’re facing a possible dual diagnosis issue, which can happen when the individual has a co-occuring substance abuse and mental health disorder—a common situation for Miami drug rehab patients.

There are plenty of addiction resources that you can read online. You may also contact the Florida Department of Health and Florida Department of Children and Families—state agencies that work together to raise awareness and sensitivity on the issue of alcohol and substance addiction, thereby helping reduce their rates of incidence and their negative effects on the health of Floridians. 

Look for Support

Once you have a better understanding of addiction, the next step is to share what you learned with the rest of the family and get their support. When everyone is on board, it is best to get in touch with people who know what you are going through to guide you in the journey. Whether you realize it or not, every one of you is suffering as much as or even more than the person with SUD. 

You may want to consider joining Nar-Anon Family Groups, a support group for families affected by their loved one’s substance misuse. It’s a good way to reach out to other people who are going through the same challenges as you.

Reach Out and Communicate

After you go through the above steps, you will be more intellectually and emotionally prepared to talk with your loved one about their addiction. You may start by having a heart-to-heart talk with the person so that it will be less intimidating. 

Find a comfortable time to bring up the subject. Ensure that nobody else is present in the room, and see to it that the individual is not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Start by saying that you are concerned about their behavior and if they will be willing to hear your thoughts. Choose your words carefully and avoid blaming language.

Should they agree to listen to what you have to say, share your observations, and ask if they will consider getting treatment. If they welcome the suggestion, be sure that you are prepared to offer different treatment options. Do your homework and find reputable rehab facilities before your talk. 

Let go of the idea temporarily if the person becomes defensive. Do not resort to threatening or shaming. Instead, plan an intervention with other family members and trusted friends. 

Set Clear Boundaries

Once you are done voicing your concern and offering concrete ways to address the issue, you should set recognizable boundaries if they refuse treatment. Let your addicted loved one know that you and the rest of the family will no longer tolerate the behavior. 

Inform the person in detail about the changes that will happen to help them know the gravity of the situation. For instance, you can cut financial support or keep their children away from them until they get help.

Look After Yourself

The last but extremely crucial step in helping a loved one with addiction is taking care of yourself. Note that although you can offer help, the person is ultimately responsible for their recovery. Be careful in investing all of  your time, energy, and emotions in trying to “fix” them because you may end up also losing yourself in the process. 

Take a step back when you are stressed, and focus on your life more. Eat well, exercise, socialize, and do things that make you happy. Remember that you can only take care of other people if you also care for your wellbeing, 

Trying to help someone with substance use disorder can be a long, frustrating, and painful process, especially if your loved one is in denial. Nonetheless, remember that you are not alone and that support is always available. Be patient, have realistic expectations, and set boundaries so you can assist the person better while not losing yourself in the process.

By Caitlyn

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