Helping a Loved One in an Addiction, by Steven Eastmond

Helping a Loved One in an Addiction

Helping a Loved One in an Addiction, by Steven Eastmond

One of the hardest challenges one can experience is having a family member or loved one stuck in the throes of addiction. Rates of addiction in American society are extremely high. According to the American Addiction Centers, in 2017 38% of adults in the United States suffered from an addiction. The larger problem in that statistic is that this translates into 38% of American families struggling with how to handle a loved one who has an addiction.

Understanding a loved one’s Addiction

Addiction is a crippling disease. On one hand, it creates chaos in the lives of the individuals imprisoned by it, slowly robbing them of their health, their employment, their dignity, and unfortunately and far too often, even their lives. But on the other hand, this illness also carries a painful stigma. Few men and women who struggle under the iron grip of addiction do so without the shame it inflicts. And the shame is not exclusive just to the individual who is addicted.

Families of a loved one in addiction typically grapple with it in ignorance and fear. So often their family member takes exorbitant efforts to acquire, use, and hide their habit, all while making promises to reform. The rift that results in the family from the ravages of addiction is deep and emotional.

Start by Seeking Support

The first and most important thing that you should do if you have a family member in addiction is to take care of yourself first. Seek counseling and support for yourself and other family members. In addition, a member of your local clergy in your church, a close and trusted friend or family member, or a medical doctor may be a good person to turn to. Simply having someone to talk with who would listen and be supportive can help.  Do not underestimate the value of being able to just openly talk. It may also be helpful to join a support group such as Al-anon or Alateen, which are groups that are free to the public and are structured specifically to help family members of alcoholics.

Here’s How You Can Help

How do you help your loved one who is trapped in their addiction? This question is the most prominent and poignant for every family who loves someone who is addicted. The answers to this question are varied and depend largely on the individual and their circumstances, but a few suggestions are merited.

Of course, if you can get the individual into a treatment center and/or a counselor with particular skills and training in treating addiction, that is ideal. This is not always possible, given that many addicted individuals are not highly motivated to seek treatment, or do not yet have insight into the need to get help.

Confronting Your Loved One About Their Addiction

If your loved one resists getting help or is in denial about having a problem, you will likely need to get some help to confront the addicted individual in some way, through what is often known as an intervention. Seek the help of a professional and do not attempt an intervention on your own.

A couple hugging in a field

When Should You Begin an Intervention?

It is ultimately best to carry out this intervention soon after a negative event has occurred related to the addict’s behaviors. While the concerns are fresh and clear in the minds of everyone involved, it is less likely the addicted individual can deny or minimize as effectively.

Confronting your loved one with their addiction can be difficult and emotions often are high in these situations.  It is important to be prepared for that. These emotions are another one of the reasons why having professional help is so important. Sometimes these interventions can backfire and should only be done as a last resort and with the assistance of someone trained and knowledgeable in addiction issues.

Get Professional Help

Ultimately, having a loved one in the throes of addiction is an incredibly taxing and exhausting experience. Seek professional help for yourself as soon as you can, not just for the individual struggling.

Steven Eastmond, LCSW

Family Transitions Counseling ( 

Steve is a Utah native and earned a master’s in social work from Washington University in St. Louis, the top school of social work in the country. He owns and runs Family Transitions Counseling in Pleasant Grove, Utah and has other therapists working in this clinic as well. Steve is also an adjunct professor of social work at Utah Valley University. 

If you or anyone you know is facing mental health challenges and needs support, we can help you.

You can share how you’re feeling or about your experience, or apply to our subsidized therapy program.

5 Steps You Can Take Today to Ease Financial Stress, by Curtis Duty

5 Steps You Can Take Today to Ease Financial Stress

5 Steps You Can Take Today to Ease Financial Stress, by Curtis Duty

Financial stress has far-reaching negative effects even in prosperous times, and much more so in times of turmoil. It is well known that financial difficulties are the number one cause of divorce in the U.S. and the negative effects of debt, which the majority of Americans carry, are much farther reaching. In 2017 (during a time of prosperity and economic growth) the American Psychological Association reported that 62% of Americans indicated money troubles as their main source of anxiety and depression. The burden of anxiety on our mental health is one of the most common effects of financial stress, and as the two are ever entwined, our physical health can take a toll as a result.

Delayed healthcare is also an effect of dealing with financial stress: folks struggling to pay their rent are less likely to see their doctor at the warning signs of a medical problem. The long-lasting effects of this disparity are indicated by a study in The Journal of Gerontology showing that wealthy men at age fifty are likely to have 31 more healthy years, where 50-year-old men in poor countries will enjoy only 22 more healthy years. With this being so, how much more important is it to address financial questions during a global pandemic?

A man lying down with his arms resting on his chest

The weight of financial burden can be crushing, and for many, the problem feels like it has no solution. So it is easy to see that improving your finances improves your overall well-being. By taking steps towards addressing financial difficulties, anxieties can be eased and mental and physical health improved. Here are a number of steps anyone can take to ease financial stress in their lives:

1. Check your daily routine to guarantee you are using best practices in every avenue of mental and physical health

This is easier said than done, but mental, physical, and financial health are symbiotic, and correcting negative habits in one area will influence the health of another. Begin by following the advice of everyone’s favorite accountant, “The Office’s” Oscar Martinez, and eliminate “things that no one ever, ever needs, like multiple magic sets and professional bass fishing equipment.” You probably are not as bad off as Michael Scott, but most of us are guilty of some level of unnecessary spending. Next, consider ending discretionary spending for items that are also bad for your body and mind: Consider avoiding eating out, and think about your choices in alcohol consumption. Take a leap and eliminate tobacco products, cut back on entertainment spending, etc. The list of small routine changes can be endless, and through intentional practice, your mental/physical/financial health can begin improving in a few short weeks.

2. “Assess the damage” and complete a 360-degree review of your finances

The author C.S. Lewis is quoted: “If there is a wasp in the room, I’d like to be able to see it.” So it goes when dealing with finances. You cannot take control of your situation until you get into the weeds and know from whence you may be stung. If this task is overwhelming, begin by writing down what your take-home pay is each month. Next, make a list of all your monthly bills. Include everything that is owed each month, as well as your own discretionary spending. Looking at the money you have coming in versus the money going out will give you the best status report of your finances, and will hopefully spark some ideas of where to make changes.

For those of us suffering from financial stress, this exercise will no doubt be difficult. I promise you that the short-term anxiety you experience from completing a comprehensive review of your spending will lead you to greater peace as you respond to the challenge of taking control of your fiscal well-being.

3. Make a Plan to Deal with Your Financial Stress

Renowned shame researcher and TED talk presenter Brene Brown shared the following anecdote from her live session “The Power of Vulnerability:”

“I remember going to Diana (my therapist) and saying: ‘I am like a turtle with no shell in a briar patch. (…) I can’t be a turtle without a shell in a briar patch. I need a shell. What kind of shell – get some meds – what do you have for me? Give me a shell. Give me like a therapist-sanctified-you-know-whatever shell. Give me a shell!

She’s like: ‘Well… I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you get out of the briar patch?!…’

Why don’t you stop living the way you are living? Why don’t you get out the briar patch? And then you’ll be super happy without your shell. You’ll be comfortable, lightweight, move around, nimble…. You are getting poked and hurt all the time, not because you don’t have a shell, but because you’re living in a briar patch.’ ”

In the world of personal finance, we often find ourselves like the turtle in a briar patch of expenses; asking, hoping, praying, and working to obtain a shell in the form of a greater income to cover those expenses. We often neglect the option to remove ourselves from the briar patch by eliminating the lifestyle that has led us to mental breakdown brought on by financial stress.

Ease Financial Stress by Changing Your Lifestyle

Making a plan to reduce spending is the hard part of dealing with financial stress, and it requires discipline and sacrifice. By re-considering our lifestyle choices, many of us are able to downgrade some of our spending habits in order to gain the freedom of financial well-being. Costly items like late-model vehicles, spacious homes, recreation options, and exotic vacations are fun to have and experience, but you will find they are not worth the cost when you are up late worried about your overdue credit card bills and find yourself resenting your closet filled with expensive and outdated clothing.

We can remove ourselves from the briar patch of debt by weighing our purchases against the financial obligation that comes with them. Some of us may find the cost of a larger home worth the consideration it takes to foot the bill. Others may find it best to settle for a modest home and the security of a growing savings account. Only you can decide how much financial stress you should tolerate, though I would caution against debt of any kind. You may feel confident that you can handle a large car payment while you are standing on a dealerships’ showroom floor, but you may not feel that way in 6 months when the newer model is released and your shiny new car is only worth half what you paid.

Focus on the Essentials

For those in particularly dire straits, financial coach and radio host Dave Ramsey recommends that your financial plan focuses on what he calls ‘the four walls’ of Food, shelter and utilities, clothing, and transportation. Often, we forget that these are really the only necessities of life, and other purchases are non-essential. If you can feed, clothe, and shelter your family then you have what is required to sustain life. Taking comfort that you are not going to die from your financial situation is a great mindset for tackling debt and making decisions that will allow you to enjoy relief from money worries.

A woman moving a large box

If you feel that you have cut every luxury from your spending and still feel you are struggling, now is the time to consider ways to increase your income to help create some relief. If you are not working full-time and have the capacity to do so, begin seeking full-time employment. Job opportunities available, and though the open positions may not be the most desirable, it will be difficult to meet your needs without full-time employment. If you are fully employed and still struggle, consider working a “side hustle.” In the new “gig economy” there are many ways to earn money in the evenings or during weekends. Some examples include: Delivering food or packages, driving for rideshare companies, teaching courses online, completing odd jobs, etc.

4. Revisit your plan and communicate

As you take on the challenge of gaining and maintaining a healthy relationship with money, you need to enlist your family and loved ones to help you along the way. In particular, you need to communicate regularly with your spouse or significant other. No plan for greater financial health will be successful unless everyone on the boat is rowing together. Be thoughtful when talking money with your loved ones and remember that they are likely also concerned about money and might be dealing with financial stress too. Try to avoid accusations, and focus on how your household can achieve greater harmony.

Do not forget to communicate with your financial institutions during this time. As you walk through your expenses and guarantee that your “four walls” expenses are paid, you may find that some of your other bills cannot be paid on time. If you reach the end of the month and cannot make credit card or other payments please do not avoid them. These creditors will often make arrangements so you can make smaller payments until a time when you can cover what you owe. Avoiding these tough conversations can lead to huge surcharges and further debt, and even destroy your credit which may prohibit you from renting a home in the future, or financing a vehicle.

Track your budget and celebrate your victories. Working from a budget does not mean that you must feel guilt every time you pass through a drive-through window or sneak out to a movie after work. What it does allow you to do is work towards goals and feel a sense of relief and accomplishment as you hit benchmarks on your road to financial sustainability. How often and to what degree you scrutinize your personal cash flow sheet is up to you, but what is most important is that you are tracking it and that you focus on your goals. As Peter Drucker put it: “What gets measured gets managed.”

5. Take a continued interest in your fiscal well-being

Aside from dealing with the dollars and cents of your budget and spending, utilize any of the following good mental health practices:

Express gratitude for the resources you do have and find ways to give back. For those of us struggling to make the ends meet, it is easy to get into a selfish rhythm as we labor to pay our bills. It is important to still recognize the good in our lives as we work through our trials, and daily expressions of gratitude will improve your outlook as you strive to accomplish hard tasks. As well, donating time or funds to others will help you to know that you ARE going to make it!

Seek support people. Finding support people is helpful in any endeavor, but particularly so in the realm of financial well-being and self-reliance. Find people in your life who will encourage you to make and hit financial goals and provide you with advice along the way. Seek out information on financial wellness and consume as much of that material as possible. Some resources will be listed below that you can use to increase your knowledge and motivation to put your fiscal demons to bed.

Remain decisive: Jane McGrath of HowStuffWorks Inc writes:

“When you’re late on the rent and can’t keep the utilities on, the idea of opening a savings account may seem as far-fetched as a picnic on the moon; but the truth is that all of us, even the poorest, have financial choices. Finding those choices may feel impossible: the second you get ahead, you’re defeated by relatives needing loans, kids wanting designer sneakers, downsizing, layoffs, unexpected medical expenses, and a myriad of other obstacles.

The trick to ditching your defeatist attitude is finding a way to believe that somehow, even in the most untenable of circumstances, there is hope. Organizations like America Saves exist to help you find that hope. Simple things like making a gratitude list or visualizing yourself free of financial stress can also help you feel more hopeful.”

A man standing between bookcases while reading a book

Believe in Your Ability to Reduce Your Financial Stress

Setting and working towards financial goals is difficult, but it is the fastest way to lower your anxiety about your finances. If you feel that your mental health is keeping you from starting on the path to financial health, please enlist the help of a mental health professional to discuss ways to progress forward. The speed with which you make strides toward a better relationship with money and debt should depend on your unique situation, and you should exercise moderation in personal finance decisions. As you take control of your financial future, remember these words from New York Times columnist David Brooks: “Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: The future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so.”


Advice on how to save money on purchases and handling creditors:

Advice on budgeting and wealth-building:

Curtis Duty

Curtis grew up in Texas and graduated from Southern Utah University with a master’s degree in Public Administration. He has spent the majority of his career working in field operations and currently works as a talent acquisition manager. His passion for mental health comes from personally witnessing the struggles of individuals experiencing mental health challenges and their suffering from the social stigma with which such illnesses are often met. 

If you or anyone you know is facing mental health challenges and needs support, we can help you.

You can share how you’re feeling or about your experience, or apply to our subsidized therapy program.

Addiction: Coping in Healthy Ways During the Isolation, by Steven Eastmond

Addiction: Coping in Healthy Ways During the Isolation

Addiction: Coping in Healthy Ways During the Isolation, by Steven Eastmond

Addictive behaviors are unfortunately common across our nation for a variety of reasons. Anywhere from entertainment all the way to heavily stuck in substance use and unable to escape, these behaviors have been prevalent for a number of years across the United States and throughout the globe. According to American Addiction Centers, in 2017 over one-third of adult Americans (38%) struggled with addiction. Even more people struggle with addiction as a way of coping during this recent period of social isolation.

People tend to expend exorbitant amounts of energy fighting off anything that is painful, be that emotional or physical. We avoid, hide, run, medicate, or numb whatever might cause us to hurt. And doing so makes sense. Not many people enjoy pain.

How Isolation Leads to Coping Through Addiction

When the entire nation is in isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, mental health concerns are mounting. The inability to communicate or connect face to face with friends, coworkers, or family; lost employment and/or income; and especially the contraction of this illness by oneself or a close family member are just a few of the increased painful stressors that Americans are grappling with currently. And as a result, many will resort to substance abuse as a way to cope.

A man passed out on a desk while holding a glass of alcohol

It is not uncommon for therapists to hear that this isolation has influenced an increase in drinking or drug use in a client. One client told me that the coping mechanisms they found most effective were talking to people and socializing and drinking. So naturally, during this period of prolonged isolation, he has turned to drinking to cope with painful things in his life.

Coping Alternatives to Addiction

May I suggest a couple of alternatives to drinking or drug abuse that can be used as you or a loved one struggles to cope with isolation? First of all (don’t quit reading after this), physical exercise. Physical exercise has been shown in repeated studies to be just as effective in combatting feelings of depression as a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Granted, exercise won’t teach the tools that therapy would teach, but the outcomes in terms of what one feels from both are very similar. Many during this time have found it difficult to exercise because they were accustomed to going to a public gym, but several things can be done quite effectively in the privacy of one’s own home, or through outdoor exercise. All you need to do is a small bit of research and effort and an effective home exercise plan can be mapped out.

Spending Time with Family

Secondly, although social distancing regulations have kept most of us at bay from typical social gatherings and communications that normally would fill our buckets, many have reported to me in therapy sessions how much they have grown to appreciate and cherish the additional time with their family members. They have learned to adapt to not being able to do other things, be distracted by outside activities, or engage in a myriad of other “important,” albeit not family-centered engagements. Throw yourself into your family relationships, assuming you have some reasonably emotionally healthy relatives, and work to discover some bonds that could provide you with extensive support for you in the future for many years to come.


Third, many of my clients have found that journaling is a very healthy outlet for many of their painful and persistent emotional concerns. Many ask, “How is it helpful to talk about or write about what’s bothering me? It isn’t a solution.” The example I give them is that our issues in life, when allowed to build up and fester without an outlet, feel much like taking ten superballs into a racquetball court and throwing them all at once against the wall. It will feel like several dozen superballs are bouncing around in various directions when in reality it is only ten.

Talking about problems or writing them in a journal is similar in effect to taking all of those superballs and setting them quietly down on the floor where they can be accounted for much more easily. Writing and talking help a person to organize thoughts and feelings and assists in alleviating stress and the buildup of emotions.

A woman sitting alone on the corner of a dock

Virtual Therapy

Finally, consider arranging an appointment via telehealth with a licensed therapist or life coach. These individuals are trained to listen and provide appropriate ideas, tools, and/or advice and counsel on ways to improve your life and plan an effective future for yourself and your family. Given the fact that therapists can provide these services online securely, it is safe and easy to and is a good opportunity to work through some private concerns and painful issues that might otherwise provoke an individual into substance use. Counsel from a trained professional can be tailored to your individual needs and can set you on a straight and helpful path of recovery, healthy coping skills, and healing.

Use These Coping Suggestions to Build a Healthier Life During Isolation

During this time of isolation, consider alternatives to the unhealthy coping of addiction or addictive substances. Try some other means for coping with pain and, again, consider contacting a professional to help you in getting things more organized in your life. While the restrictions persist, perhaps it is the perfect opportunity to work on oneself and one’s ineffective coping mechanisms. We wish you the best of luck in facing these difficulties and accessing the help you need.

Steven Eastmond, LCSW

Family Transitions Counseling (

Steve is a Utah native and earned a master’s in social work from Washington University in St. Louis, the top school of social work in the country. He owns and runs Family Transitions Counseling in Pleasant Grove, Utah, and has other therapists working in this clinic as well. Steve is also an adjunct professor of social work at Utah Valley University.

If you or anyone you know is facing mental health challenges and needs support, we can help you.

You can share how you’re feeling or about your experience, or apply to our subsidized therapy program.

6 Ways to Handle Your Mental Health Crisis, by Zachary Duty

6 Ways to Handle Your Mental Health Crisis

6 Ways to Handle Your Mental Health Crisis, by Zachary Duty

Taking care of yourself during a mental health crisis is just as important as taking care of your physical health.

When I was 7 my brothers and I built a rope swing. We took a couple of test runs and our childhood handiwork seemed to be functional. I was a little nervous to try it out so my older brother decided to give me a tutorial. He showed me where to put my hands so I could hang on, and then he took a swing to show me how safe it was. Well… the swing broke and my brother fell off, breaking his arm.

We sounded the parental alarm and adults were soon at his side. They whisked him away to the hospital where his arm was set by an experienced physician. A week later he went back and the doctors put on a hard cast, which he wore for 6 weeks until his arm was healed. Even after the removal of his hard cast, he was advised to “take it easy,” working back towards normal full use. He fully recovered from the injury and has had no lasting effects of a broken arm.

The system we, as a society, have in place for physical health is fully operational. Anyone who suffers a physical injury knows they can go to a doctor and get the help they need. There is no shaming or stigma attached to visiting a doctor when you are experiencing some form of ailment. So why then are we so hesitant to visit a mental health professional?

Start by Acknowledging Your Mental Health Crisis

I have personally experienced trauma, addiction, and chemical imbalances that have caused real emotional suffering. Yet, for years I was hesitant to visit a therapist. My justification was that I was strong enough to handle my struggles on my own. After finally meeting with a therapist I came to the conclusion that it took more strength to ask for help.

Sad woman with person's arms on her shoulders

Like physical health, your mental health can be attacked from many different angles. You may get sick with a virus, appearing pale, sweaty, and vomiting. You may break your arm, walking around in a bright-colored cast. You may suffer a concussion, dilated pupils, blurred vision, vomiting, etc. Mental health is similar in variety, but the attacks are less apparent, at least on the surface. Most people won’t know you are struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, etc. You may not even realize the extent of your own ailment. You may simply feel alone and afraid because everyone else seems to be enjoying life with ease while you are fighting for every moment. Without any knowledge of how to handle the pain, you may be looking for a way out.

Get Help with Your Mental Health Crisis

So how do you handle an imbalance of your mental health? When the path isn’t clear and you are suffering, options can seem very limited. Perhaps you feel like you can’t share your struggle because of what others may think about you. Just like you would go see a doctor if you broke your arm, you can visit a therapist for your mental health needs. A good therapist will listen judgment-free and provide you with some guidance on how to proceed.

There are people out there right now who are suffering silently. You may be one of them. You may be in need of something you can do right now to get through this mental health crisis. You may be looking for a way out. First off, if you or a loved one is considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number (1-800-273-8255). They are well trained and can provide you with local resources. They may even discuss some of these steps with you.

These are some things you can do right now and moving forward to work through this difficult moment:


Stay present in this moment. Is anything hurting you at this moment? Look around you. Notice your feet on the ground, feel your toes in your shoes, notice the wind on your face or the humming of an appliance in the background. These are things constantly going on around us that we may not notice if we aren’t being present. An exercise like this can ground you to the moment. You may experience intrusive thoughts, those are not part of the moment, watch them go by like leaves floating down a stream. Only focus on what is right here and right now. The past is over and the future hasn’t arrived. All there is, is right now.

A man meditates in a field

Take some deep breaths, grounding has a calming effect that will help you think more clearly.

Anchor Points

There are people who care about you and/or people who need you. Your work isn’t finished and the effect you will have on the world is extraordinary. What do you love? What would you say is your passion? If you can’t answer that, take some time to ponder and try to land on something you absolutely love to do. Who are the people in your life that love you? Don’t say no one. Instead, dig deep and be truthful. When was a time that you didn’t feel like this? Focus on that time and ask yourself what was different. If you are trying to support a loved one, ask lots of open-ended questions. The goal here is to open awareness that there is more in your life than this mental health crisis or pain and things can be different.

Building the Future

Look forward. The future has the potential to be a blank slate. What do you want to do with it? The painful thoughts you are experiencing can go away if you let them, and the future can be completely different. You may feel like nothing is in your control, but that isn’t true. You always have choices. And, depending on how you decide to make those choices, your world could open up to a wonderful variety of choices.

What do you want?

Are you reaching out? Is this a cry for help and support? Do you want/need to make some major life changes because your current life is not manageable? Is your mental health crisis plaguing you and keeping you from seeing the light in the world? What is it you truly want, and is your current course of action getting you what you want? So often our desires don’t match our actions. We may want someone to love, yet we constantly argue and fight against the people around us, who are likely trying to love us. So ask yourself what your deepest desire is and check to make sure your actions are building towards that desire.

Safety Plan

Make a list of things that work and help towards a more balanced and healthy future. Then make a list of things that are not helpful. You could come up with a specific plan, like calling someone specific when you are feeling down. Safety plans are as good as you make them and only work if you’re willing to follow them.

Access to Lethal Means

I always say that avoidance is the lowest level of overcoming a problem, but in many ways, it can also be a good first step. If you don’t want to drink alcohol, it’s probably a good idea to empty the liquor cabinet down the sink and skip the after-work trip to the bar. If you don’t want to end your life in an unstable moment, it is a good idea to get rid of lethal means from your house. Also, if you or a loved one have thought about a specific plan and has the means to carry it out please reach out immediately.

A man sitting on a bed with alcohol bottles on the floor

What to Do Post-Mental Health Crisis

Once you’re out of the crisis, you can work towards getting the help you need to stabilize and balance your mental health. This can be done through therapy and medication management. It is difficult, if not impossible to find that balance when you are in crisis. This can be done on your own but works even better with the support of a loved one and mental health professional.

We are working towards shining a more positive light on the very serious need for regular mental health care. Hopefully, it will become a familiar process like setting a broken arm. Unfortunately, a broken arm can’t be set if you never go to the hospital. So, please reach out

By the way, I never ended up taking my turn on that rope swing.

Zachary Duty, CSW

Zach Duty is a native Texan and a graduate of Southern Utah University with a bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Recreation. He went on to complete a master’s in social work at the University of Utah with an emphasis in child welfare. As a therapist, Zach has worked in residential treatment and for the state of Utah through the Division of Juvenile Justice. 

If you or anyone you know is facing mental health challenges and needs support, we can help you.

You can share how you’re feeling or about your experience, or apply to our subsidized therapy program.