No matter what the circumstances surrounding an addiction, no addict can find recovery on their own. They need the love, support, and encouragement of those around them.
When you are trying to help a loved one who is struggling with addiction, you may feel confused, scared, and helpless. You want to help them; but you don’t know what to do, how to help, or where to start. Addiction is an extremely hard emotional roller coaster for those struggling with an addiction. But for their loved ones around them who want to help, it can also be a difficult journey. They want to help; but they find it difficult to know how.
Here are 6 tips for helping an addict in your life:
1. Understand that addictions are real.
One of the main things you can do to help your loved one who is battling an addiction is to understand that addictions are very real, and can be very difficult to fight through. Addictions are actually considered medical diseases. People that have addictions experience real chemical responses in their brains and bodies that cause them to become addicted. This makes addictions very hard to overcome.
Understanding this will help you to realize how much love and support your loved one will need. Don’t judge them; they aren’t going through this addiction because they are weak. When they get to the point where they are ready to fight their addiction, understand how strong that truly makes them. Be there for them to offer the help and support that they need.
2. Love them.
Next, you should love them. Understanding how difficult their addiction actually is (see #1) will help you to look at them without judgement. When trying to help an addict, understand that “tough love” almost never helps. That said, you should still be honest with them. Set boundaries when necessary. Tell them if you feel they have a problem. But let them know that you love them and are willing to help them.
Never say “I told you so.” Don’t make them feel guilty, or weak, for the addiction they are battling. Give them support, love and encouragement when they need it. Know that your love and support can make all the difference in their recovery. Make sure they know they aren’t alone.
3. Know what is going on in their life.
Many times addiction is made worse, or relapse is sparked, by bad events that are going on in an addict’s life. So, to help them, put in the effort to be present and aware of the things that are going on in their life. Become someone that they know they can talk to and trust. Be involved in their life; be alert to the changes that are going on in their life.
If they are going through a divorce (their own or their parents’), the loss of a job, the loss of a relationship, a death in the family, even an argument with a loved one, work to know the things that are going on. Be there for them to talk to about their feelings about what is going on in their life. Instead of them turning to alcohol to deal with their feelings, let them view you as something they can turn to for help instead.
4. Give them alternatives.
An addict doesn’t just need to learn new ways to cope with stress, anger, and sadness. They also need to learn new productive ways to work through boredom, and to spend their time. To them before, most social situations probably centered around their addictive substance. So, help keep them busy with more healthy activities.
Take them on hikes, out to coffee, shopping, or even just to play games with you and your family. Help them to find other things that they enjoy doing. They need to learn that they can have fun without drugs and alcohol!
Help them learn new ways to celebrate. If they have a promotion, a new child, a birthday, or some other milestone in their life, be there to celebrate with them. Teach them healthy ways to celebrate and enjoy life without the presence of their addictive substance.
5. Never give up
One important thing to remember is to never give up on your loved one. Be there to listen to them, and to offer love and support. But be patient. Recognize that they may relapse a time or two (or more) before they find their right path towards recovery. Know that their addiction is not your fault. But know that you should never give up on them.
Again, set boundaries to protect yourself when necessary. But don’t give up! Encourage them, even if they relapse. Be there to help them come up with new ideas. Make sure that they know that you love them and support them throughout the entire process. And that you are there to help them when they are ready.
6. Find a support group
If needed, find (or create) a support group of other people who are also trying to help their loved ones through an addiction. This can help you find others who are dealing with the same struggles, experiences, and emotions that you are. This will provide you with an outlet to share your frustrations and fears with others who understand; keeping you from exploding on or venting to your loved one who is struggling with addiction. Share ideas with each other. You may hear some new ideas that may help you and your loved one.
Nicole is a guest post writer for Addiction Watch, where they help to treat drug addiction and treatment. Read more here.