8 Tips for Helping Someone with an Addiction
Is someone you love struggling with an addiction? This could be an addiction to alcohol, opioids, prescription drugs, or any other type of substance or habit.
When you’re on the outside looking in, that can be a tough position. You want to help and encourage your loved one to seek treatment, but how can you do so in an effective, gentle way? Despite your good intentions, going about this process incorrectly could actually hinder their progress or even derail it altogether.
Today, we’re sharing how to go about this sensitive step the right way. Read on to discover eight tips for helping someone with an addiction, and how to get started.
Research the Addiction
No, you don’t need to become a medical expert in opioid addiction overnight. However, it can be very helpful to read up on your loved one’s addiction before you begin offering any type of support or intervention.
Today, you can find loads of information on any given topic by going online and performing a quick Google search. While this might be more convenient than making a trip to the library, it’s important to make sure you’re getting your information from the right place. Never trust a spammy website or one that looks overly gimmicky. It’s also important to steer clear of personal addiction blogs, which will often be filled with anecdotes and individual experiences, not actual medical facts.
Your best bet is to go straight to the authorities on addiction and glean your data from there. Some of the best organizations to start with include:
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
All of these sites feature helpful articles, blogs, and support tools to help you learn more about how addiction works. Spend some time on each of them, and reach out if you have any questions.
Know Your Local Options
Depending on your relationship with the individual, you may or may not be the first person they call if their addiction causes them to experience a medical emergency. Still, it’s smart to plan ahead.
Research your local medical facilities, including therapy providers and treatment centers, and familiarize yourself with how their addiction recovery programs work. Even if your loved one isn’t ready to admit they are struggling, they may need help sooner than they think.
If you can be ready with a plan and a list of local resources, they may be more willing to give them a try. For instance, by showing them how to get into rehab immediately, you could offer them access to the life-saving services they desperately need. There’s no guarantee that you can convince them to take advantage of these services, but a local center can also help you stage an intervention if required.
Find a Supportive Peer Group
If you have a close relationship with someone who is struggling with addiction, it can do a number on your physical and mental health. While you understandably want to help them get better, you don’t have to sacrifice your own well-being in the process.
If possible, seek support from others who are walking the same path that you are. If you don’t know anyone personally, you can join groups such as Al-Anon or Alateen. Through these groups, you can find resources, information, and insights on how to manage your own needs while caring for others. Caregiver burnout is very real, and it can sneak up on you. Look for ways to cultivate your hobbies, lower your stress levels, and maintain personal connections even amid the struggle.
Offer a Listening Ear
One of the quickest ways to turn someone away or shut them down is to offer a lecture on their addiction. When your loved one is ready to talk, resist the urge to hone in on their behavior. Instead, simply do what they’re asking you to do: listen.
There will be opportunities for more serious discussions down the road. In the beginning, your main role is to be a sounding board and a listening ear. If you can do so without passing judgment, it’s easier to gain the trust of the other person. That bond will be critical once it’s time to make decisions about their care later on.
Do Not Enable
Take a minute to think about how you’re interacting with your loved one. Are you engaging in any types of actions that could be enabling their destructive behaviors? This might include loaning them money, making excuses for them, paying their court fines, or picking up their slack at school, home, or work.
It may feel like tough love at first, but it’s time to stop those actions as soon as possible. The more you enable an addiction, the harder it is to break. Have an honest conversation with the person and explain that your decisions are coming from a place of love, though that might be hard to see at first.
Keep Your Expectations Realistic
As you interact with the individual, do so in a realistic manner. You can’t expect them to change their ways overnight, or suddenly be willing to seek help. Keep holding them accountable and offering to point them toward assistance whenever they’re ready.
It might seem as though your words aren’t being met with gratitude or even respect. Stay consistent, remain present, and while it might seem impossible, try not to take their reactions to heart. Remember that they are in the throes of a very serious disease.
Instead of reacting with pity, resentment, or anger, keep your focus on helping your loved one come out on the other side of this painful condition.
Seek Financial or Legal Help
Addiction treatment can be costly. There may also be complicated legal issues that you need to navigate. Instead of trying to solve all of these problems on your own, reach out to specialty providers.
Most treatment centers will have staff members on board who can walk you through the payment process and help you work through any financial issues. Likewise, an attorney can help you understand the legal side of the process, working alongside you to complete documents, speak to providers, and advocate on your loved one’s behalf.
Engage in Self-Care
As we mentioned, caregiver burnout is real. It can also sneak up on you, even if you’re wholeheartedly invested in your loved one’s care. You can’t pour from a cup that’s been drained dry, so remember to prioritize your own self-care during this time.
This process might look different for everyone, but it should always be included engaging in activities and practices that soothe your spirit and bring you great joy. From a bubble bath to a great book, think of what sparks your happiness and carve out time to do it.
Seek Support for Yourself and Your Loved One
Loving someone through an addiction may be one of the most difficult and challenging things you ever do. It can be hard to balance the affection you feel for someone with the concern you have over their behavior.
By following the eight tips above, you can navigate these choppy waters and come out on the other side. As you provide ongoing support, remember to be gentle with yourself, too. If you need additional resources and professionals to help you along this path, you can reach out to the organizations listed. You aren’t in this alone, so seek help as openly as you give it.