Medically Reviewed by Dr. Mohammed Saeed, MD.
When a friend or loved one finally agrees to get help for their addiction, you might let out a much-needed sigh of relief. But before you can truly celebrate, they’ll need to overcome one of the biggest obstacles for recovering addicts: the detoxification process. For those in recovery, this can be a physically and mentally draining process. As the body is cleansed of harmful drugs and chemicals, your friend or loved one will be faced with many uncomfortable symptoms and side effects.
Supporting A Loved One Through Withdrawal and Detox
While it may be difficult to watch a loved one struggle through this process, this is the most critical time to be at their side. You may feel helpless, and may not know exactly what you can do to support them, but your presence throughout this portion of recovery can be quite impactful to their success in overcoming withdrawal and re-adapting to a healthy lifestyle.
1. Seek Professional Help
The most important thing to remember is that attempting detox at home, without clinical supervision, can be extremely dangerous. The symptoms and effects of withdrawal on the body and mind vary widely from person to person, and there’s no way to predict how intense and uncomfortable the process may be. For this reason, seeking a professional, medical consultation is the best way to begin the recovery process to ensure that your friend or loved one remains safe throughout the process. They will often recommend a medically supervised detox facility for your loved one to attend.
2. Put In The Time
The first few days (and sometimes weeks) will be exhausting, and often times, painful for your loved one. They will be faced with excruciating withdrawal symptoms and powerful cravings that will be difficult to overcome. During these early stages, you may consider taking time off of work or planning to dedicate extra time to being there with your loved one, as they’ll need support, guidance, and accountability around the clock.
3. Prepare To See The Worst
As you spend additional time with your loved one, you’ll begin to notice changes in their behavior and demeanor that may concern you. Understand that the detoxification process will bring out the worst in them, both mentally and physically. Your loved one will exhibit flu-like symptoms, such as vomiting, sweating, a runny nose, irritability, and anxiety. Continue to remind yourself that these symptoms are temporary, and are quite common throughout this phase of recovery. Stay by your loved one’s side and don’t abandon them. Continue to show them love and support.
4. Help Them Be Comfortable
Although you cannot completely remove the discomfort, there are some things you can do to help ease the pain and help your loved one to be as comfortable as possible. It may help to provide a quiet place for them to rest or suggest a hot bath. After checking with a medical professional, you can also help by providing over-the-counter medications such as antidiarrheals and pain relievers.
Also, make sure that they maintain a diet that will complement the recovery process. Encourage them to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, as well as eat light and easy-to-digest foods such as soup, noodles, rice, vegetables, and fruit.
5. Distract Them
Your loved one will experience intense cravings as the body rids itself of harmful drugs and chemicals. Do not allow these cravings to get the best of you or your loved one! Plan healthy alternatives and distractions to redirect your loved one’s mind when they are experiencing cravings. You can do this by having games, activities, or mindfulness exercises prepared to distract them from these uncomfortable moments.
6. Be Patient
Remember that the detoxification process is only temporary, and the most uncomfortable symptoms will last for only a few days to a week. No matter how distressing it may be to watch your friend or loved one experience such discomfort, remember that this is a battle that they must face in order to have a chance at a healthier, sober life.
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