If you suspect that a loved one may have developed a physical or psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol, you’re probably wondering how you could possibly help them. Many people feel unprepared or unqualified to tackle such a painful, sensitive topic with friends and family members. They may avoid addressing the issue, or take the “tough love” approach that involves lots of accusations and blame. None of these is the best way to approach such a delicate but serious situation. Read on to learn more about how to sensitively but firmly help a loved one with addiction.
How Not To Help
Before taking the first steps, it is important to remember what not to do. Remind yourself that you cannot compel your loved one to stop abusing drugs or alcohol. You can stage an intervention, recommend treatment options, and talk honestly about your feelings, but you cannot control your loved one’s decisions or behaviors. Ultimately, that choice is up to them. Trying to force someone to get help or improve their life will never work.
Even more importantly, remember that you will not be able to do the very difficult work of recovery for them. The recovery journey can be long and painful, both for the person you love and for yourself. During this process, you will need to be patient and attentive to their needs without emotionally burdening yourself with responsibility for their behaviors and choices.
How To Help A Friend With Addiction
The first and best thing you can do to help a loved one with addiction is to have a straightforward, compassionate discussion with them about their habits and choices. Here’s how to have that difficult initial conversation.
First of all, do not try to have a conversation while your loved one is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which can cause you to become angry or impair their reasoning abilities. If possible, you should also plan to speak in a neutral location where both of you will feel comfortable and safe.
The next step is simply to be straightforward about the reasons why you feel that the conversation is necessary. You may talk about how their addiction has made them distant from their friends or children, how their performance at their job or enjoyment of their hobbies seems to have suffered, or how you have noticed their physical condition getting worse. Whatever you choose to speak about, make sure to emphasize the negative impact that addiction has on your loved one, not just how it has hurt you. If possible, you might also talk about some of the rehab options that are available to them.
Beyond speaking to your loved one directly, there are plenty of other steps that you can take to stay actively involved in their recovery. Here are some other ways to show that you care and help a loved one with addiction:
- Get educated: Learn about the signs, treatments, and consequences of addiction.
- It’s also a good idea to become familiar with the recovery resources in your community, such as helplines and support groups, local treatment centers, and doctors who specialize in drug or alcohol rehab. You can find a list of these resources by searching the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s treatment locator.
- Set boundaries and stick to them: Communicate clearly about which behaviors you can and cannot allow your loved one to do. For instance, many people set a boundary that they will not spend time with their loved one while they are under the influence. In order to take responsibility and accept their need for help, people need to face the consequences of their behavior.
- Participate in their recovery: If your loved one has the opportunity to attend significant other therapy, then find a way to go along and support them. Whether you accompany them in person or simply video chat with them during the session, these sessions will help both of you set healthy expectations and build respectful communication.
The next step to addiction recovery is receiving professional help. If you’d like to speak with a qualified addiction specialist about further steps to help a friend with addiction, call the experts at CARUS Recovery at 877-225-7774 to learn more about our programs and treatments.