If you have a friend or relative that is struggling with an addiction, this can be one of the most difficult and heartbreaking experiences you might have to face in life. To watch someone abuse alcohol or drugs to the point where it starts to affect their relationships with others, their health, their careers, and financial security can be terrifying, especially if they are in denial about having a problem.
It’s not easy to help an addict overcome their addiction, and it is a long road to recovery and to stay clean, but it’s imperative that theyreceive the right support from their loved ones if they are going to achieve this. If you’re unsure about how you can help a loved one with an addiction, below is a brief guide highlighting some of the most important and useful ways you can support them.
Having patience with an addict isn’t always easy, and at times it might feel completely impossible. Maybe when they drink or get high, their behavior becomes aggressive or they embarrass you frequently. It could be because they are persistently asking you to help them out financially and never paying you back. It might even be that you’re angry at them for upsetting another friend or relative due to their addiction.
Many things could cause you to lose patience with an addict, but it’s important to practice this as best you can. It will likely take more than one or two attempts for them to recover and stay sober, as relapses are common. Even if you feel exasperated about this, they mustn’t feel as though you are giving up on them, as this could only push them further into their addiction.
Addicts don’t want to be addicts. There are numerous reasons why someone might develop a substance abuse problem. It could be a genetic issue, a way to deal with low self-esteem, or because it is a way for them to self-medicate after a traumatic experience. It’s important to build trust between you both if you’re going to have a successful relationship and help them tackle their addiction, so listening to why they rely on substances to cope is a good place to start. Listen to how it makes them feel, what emotions or situations seem to trigger their need to drink or get high. If they know they can confide in you without the risk of being judged, this will help them a lot.
While patience is important when dealing with an addict, it’s equally important to make sure you’re not being taken advantage of. You need to set boundaries to protect yourself and to make sure that they’re not becoming co-dependent on you, either. The boundaries you set will be up to you, but things like saying no to drinking/drug use when they are in your home or with you are one example. Or it could involve a scenario where you no longer lend them money or help them get drugs or alcohol. It’s important that once you set these boundaries you follow through with them, even if that might mean you lose contact or stop speaking until they get clean.
Listening to them is a great place to start, but you must also remember to communicate your feelings as well. An addict will not respond well if they feel as though you’re lecturing them, shaming them, or threatening them, so try to communicate your feelings and concerns in a calm, constructive manner, and avoid passive-aggressive or angry exchanges.They must understand the effect their addiction is having on the people they love around them, but guilt or anger can also be a trigger for them to use or drink.
Overcoming an addiction is one of the most challenging things to go through, and although someone might be able to do it alone, the reality is getting professional help will give them a much better chance of recovery. Help the addict in your life research the various treatment options available and help them get into a program.
It might be something like meeting with AA or NA and getting a sponsor through that, or they might need to start with more intensive treatment at a facility like Harris House. In fact, they might have to try a few different methods of treatment before they find one that works for them, or get further advice from a doctor depending on the severity of the situation.
Support for Yourself
An addict will need a lot of support as they try to regain control of their life, but helping them on their journey can also take a toll on you, too. If you’re finding it difficult to support them, consider talking to a professional counselor who can help you. You could also look for groups of other friends and relatives of addicts who come together to support each other through it all. Whatever you do, make sure you’re getting the opportunity to vent your frustrations or discuss your concerns in a safe space.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Even if your loved one seems to be doing well at staying sober, there are a lot of things that can result in them falling off the wagon. An addict’s journey to recovery can be unpredictable, so prepare for the unexpected. This can include a relapse or finding out something about them you didn’t know before — such as the things they did when they were in the depths of their addiction — or what happened to them in the past that caused them to start taking substances in the first place.
Let Them Know You Love Them
Finally, although at times this might be hard to do, make sure that they know you love them, no matter what. An addict might feel a lot of embarrassment and shame over things they have done when under the influence. Or they might feel guilt for not being able to control their addiction. They might even believe that no one could love them, or that they are unworthy of it. Those feelings will likely only lead to more temptation to indulge their addiction as a way to block everything out. Let them know you love them and that you will be there for them every step of the way.
Anyone can fall victim to addiction, and it’s important to remember that when you’re helping an addict. It will not be an easy road to take, but if they are going to get better, they need your love and support to do it.