Alcohol or Drug Addiction: How to Help Someone
When someone you love is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, it may seem like there’s not much you can do to help. Perhaps you’ve tried to show the individual how their drug addiction is impacting everything in their lives, but they just aren’t ready to see it. Or, maybe you’re just unsure how to help someone. Don’t let this get you down — it’s common to struggle with thoughts like “What can I do?” or “Did I do enough?” or “Have I done too much?” when someone you love is struggling with a substance abuse problem, especially when that is paired with mental illness.
Loving an addict through his or her addiction is hard enough on the family members, friends, and support networks that put themselves out day-after-day to help the individual. While every situation that involves alcohol or drug addiction and helping someone is different, there are some basic guidelines that you can follow to ensure you’re doing the best you can to help someone with an addiction. For example:
- Try to focus on building trust so that the individual will be more interested in listening to what you have to say. If they already trust you, they may consider drug rehab if you propose it to them in just the right manner.
- Be honest with the individual. Honestly let him or her know how their drug addiction is impacting your life.
- Don’t push too hard, and don’t be nosy. Respect their privacy so that they do not feel like you are invalidating them or otherwise showing signs that you don’t trust them. This will only push your loved on further away.
If you’re thinking, “I’ve already tried all of these things, and NOTHING seems to work,” You’re not alone! Addiction is a challenging disease that can leave those of us on the outside feeling like we have tried it all, and nothing has worked. But don’t give up. Helping someone with addiction certainly requires patience and understanding as you navigate the road to recovery.
Prepare for Challenges
Helping someone with addiction may be challenging for various reasons. You’re loved one may feel an array of internal feelings, such as fear, anxiety, depression or embarrassment for his or her addiction. Prepare for challenges as you navigate the recovery journey. Your loved one may:
- not believe you or agree with you that their drug use is really a problem.
- not want to make changes to their current lifestyle or situation.
- be afraid to go to drug rehab due to losing their job or facing stigma that surrounds substance abuse.
- be embarrassed to discuss addiction with you (or with anyone else for that matter).
- feel awkward discussing personal matters with a healthcare team, therapist, or counselor.
- be actively engaging in substance abuse as a coping mechanism for an underlying mental health condition or physical condition such as pain.
There’s no real straightforward method of addressing drug addiction with your loved one. What works to help a person with addiction one day, may not work the next. In fact, overcoming addiction to powerful drugs like heroin, crack, Xanax or methamphetamine requires a substantial amount of willpower and determination. That’s in addition to the support from friends and family members like yourself as well as the treatment from a Florida drug and alcohol treatment center such as SJRP. If you’re struggling to help someone you love with a drug addiction, call our admissions team at 833-397-3422 to learn more about Florida addiction and recovery programs that are available to support your loved one’s recovery.
Encouraging a Loved One to Seek Treatment for Addiction
So, you’ve found out your loved one has a drug or alcohol addiction. You may be sad, scared, possibly even a little angry. And most of all, you are unsure what to do next. Helping someone with drug addiction can feel overwhelming at first, but with a little guidance, you both can come out on top.
You know you need to get them help, but you don’t even know if they have realized they have a problem, or that they need treatment. Talking with a loved one about a drug or alcohol addiction can be scary, uncomfortable, awkward, and overall challenging. You want to make sure they get the help they need, but you also need to make sure that your message gets through clearly. So, how do you talk to someone about substance abuse or a problem with drugs or alcohol? Is helping someone with drug addiction even possible?
How to Help Someone with Drug Addiction
You may worry about whether or not you are overstepping your boundaries, but it is important to remember that your loved one may need a push in the right direction in order to seek guidance or help. It is important to remember though, that just because you are ready to talk to your loved one about substance abuse and getting help, does not necessarily mean they are ready to be receptive to the conversation. It’s quite possible that your loved one will outright deny your concerns, downplay the problem, or otherwise react in a way that you are unprepared for. As you decide how to help someone with drug addiction, keep in mind that it is very likely they will deny your concerns.
First, you must understand that drug or alcohol abuse is a powerful disease of the mind. And battling against that disease could potentially be a lifelong fight. Anyone can become addicted to any type of substance at any time in their lives. And as scary as that can be, there is help available to anyone who struggles with these types of issues. Helping someone with drug addiction requires patience and perseverance.
As a loved one, it is important for you to learn how to recognize not only the signs of addiction but also how you can get someone that you love the help that they need. Talking to a loved one about substance abuse begins with a brief intervention. The intervention should be conducted in a loving manner, such that your loved one doesn’t feel as if he or she is being judged.
There is a basic form to follow while conducting a brief intervention. The guidelines to helping someone with drug addiction are as follows:
- Give feedback or educate the individual about the personal risks of abuse, and the impairments it could cause.
- Place the responsibility for change in their hands, by making it clear that they are the ones that need to want to recover, for themselves.
- Give advice on next steps for the individual, possibly suggesting that they see a doctor to begin with, and consider checking out treatment programs.
- Educate or provide the individual with a list of therapy types, including alternative treatments, that are available to them in recovery programs.
- Be empathetic, understanding that what they are going through is hard, and that they did not intend for their lives to turn out the way that they have.
- Give and empower the individual with optimistic feedback, helping them to get excited for change.
A brief or early intervention can have many different forms and uses in helping someone with drug addiction. Intervention has been used for many years, in the process of helping individuals recovering from substance abuse. Essentially, this is the first step towards recovery for a client, and the second step for you in supporting your friend or family member on their recovery journey (the first step is discovering that they have a problem, and making the decision to talk to them about it). Typically, the goals of an intervention to help someone with drug addiction are as follows:
- To reduce the risk of harm that could result from continuous substance misuse.
- To focus on intermediate goals that are achievable to the individual, but are not so overwhelming that they distract from the ultimate goal of recovery.
- To get an individual into a customized, medically supervised, drug or alcohol treatment program for recovery.
Helping Someone with Drug Addiction
There are many ways in which you can help a loved one with addiction to drugs or alcohol. Helping someone with drug addiction begins with your own education and attitude towards the situation. Approaching the subject of substance abuse with understanding, an overall attitude of acceptance (for the individual themselves), and a resolve to help someone you love get the help they need, is essential. You may think your work is done after you have worked through the process of brief intervention, and managed to get your loved one into a drug or alcohol treatment center. But, there is still work to be done, on both ends.
You will need to be very patient. It is hard for anyone to change, but with the added pressures of drug addiction, change may feel like an impossible goal to achieve. Here’s how you can continue to help your loved one with his or her addiction problem:
- Recognize that your loved one’s decision to seek out help is a huge, and painful step in recovery. Emphasize to them how brave you think they are and reassure them that no matter how hard the path may be, you will be right there for them all along the way. Be patient, be understanding, be ready to help.
- Find, contact, and compile a list of doctors, treatment centers, and therapists related to substance abuse recovery, for your loved one. You may need to do a great deal of the research on therapy types and procedures depending on their individual level of functionality. Make sure to adhere to their wishes, but try to go through the list with them, as you encourage them to seek professional help. Go to their first visit or admission consultation with them. If they don’t want your support, at least you offered to do so.
- Help your loved one cultivate a support system that will guide them through the difficult stages of recovery. Do your research on local support groups to find and connect with people who have gone through the steps of recovery and are willing to help support others as they work to regain their lives. Now is also a good time to review alternative outpatient programs in your area.
- Stay in touch, and be informed of your loved one’s treatment progress. During their inpatient rehab program stay at a FL rehab center or recovery center for drug and alcohol addiction but also after they have left the intensive care of the residential treatment facility. Make sure to support the work their recovery team is doing, either by engaging with them in lifestyle changes, such as exercise, creative hobbies, or other ways. Reminding them of ways to destress without the use of outside substances becomes a key role for people like you and others involved in their support system.. Help them maintain their resolve for change, and support the continued adjustments they are making in their lives. Offer as much support as you can, but make sure to speak with both your loved one’s clinical team and your loved one themselves, to ensure that you are meeting their specific needs to the best of your ability.
What Not to Do When Talking to Loved Ones About Drug or Alcohol Use
It is important to remember that people begin to use drugs or alcohol for many different reasons, and thus addiction develops for a multitude of reasons. There is no such thing as a one size fits all treatment program, medication, or set length of time for recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. Helping someone with drug addiction is all about the recovery journey.
The recovery journey is a unique process for all involved. When helping someone with drug addiction it’s important to use as much love and positivity as possible. Don’t enable them by providing support for their substance misuse. But don’t belittle them either when they slip up. Slip-ups and setbacks in addiction recovery are bound to occur. You also may have to learn new habits and skills, in order to help yourself heal from the ramifications of a loved one’s addiction to drugs or alcohol. You may need to learn how to deal with triggers and how you can manage your own habits, in order to avoid triggering a loved one and to better support him or her.
Learning about addiction, and how best to support your loved one through their recovery can be a large and challenging task. As you’re learning how to help someone with drug addiction, pay close attention to recommendations on what do, and what not to do. There are many things you should do, and equally many things you should try to avoid. Actively trying to be as encouraging and supportive as possible while also trying to avoid any of these habits or circumstances is encouraged:
- Avoid confrontation, threatening, belittling, or making any other negative or angry comments towards the individual you are trying to help, no matter what the circumstance. There is no scenario where “scaring someone straight” will work in these instances. Instead, comments and threats similar to these ideas, will only serve to create more of a rift between you and your loved one.
- Don’t have a spur of the moment intervention, where you invite anyone you can find over. An intervention must be researched, rehearsed, and prepared with great care, patience, and, most importantly, love.
- Do not use harsh language, insult, or force your loved one into change. The desire for change must come from them, aided by your patient and loving support, otherwise the risk for relapse only increases.
- Avoid lecturing your loved one, or making excuses for negative behaviors. Although it may seem like a gray line, it’s important to educate yourself and to only offer education to your loved one when they are willing to listen and when you are willing to educate in a loving and gentle manner.
- Don’t blame yourself for what has happened in the past and certainly don’t let your loved one blame the addiction on you. Addiction is not your fault.
- Never participate in substance use with your loved one. Don’t have a few drinks. Do not get involved in any capacity.
- Do not enable your loved one to abuse drugs or alcohol. This includes helping them pay bills, providing them with a place to live, or otherwise supporting them so that they can spend their money on drugs or alcohol.
- Avoid discussing substance abuse, or substance abuse treatment, or intervention with someone who is under the influence.
Keep in mind that while you’re helping someone with drug addiction it is possible for mistakes to be made. You and your loved one will probably both make mistakes on the path to recovery, and that is okay. There is no one substance, treatment, medication, program, or intervention method that will work for everyone. The one thing that will help most is your love and support. You can do this, it may be scary and challenging, but if you approach the situation educated, patient, and willing to support your loved one through their struggles, you are both well on your way towards rebuilding a healthy life, together.
Wondering how to help someone with drug addiction? Call our admissions team to discuss helping someone with drug addiction and leading the way to recovery for those you love. Getting your loved one into our treatment program right away begins with a call to 833-397-3422. There’s no better time than now to take the next step in helping someone with drug addiction.
- Healthy People. Substance Abuse. (Accessed 2020, June 12).
- Find Treatment. Understanding Addiction: Addiction Can Affect Anyone. (Accessed 2020, June 12).
- Mental Health. Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders. (Accessed 2020, June 12).
- Health Direct. How to Help Someone With A Drug Problem. (Accessed 2020, June 12).
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. Chapter 2 – Brief Interventions in Substance Abuse Treatment. (Accessed 2020, June 15).
- Surgeon General. Early Intervention, Treatment, And Management of Substance Use Disorders. (Accessed 2020, June 15).
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Advancing Addiction Science. Step by Step Guide to Finding Treatment for Drug Use Disorders: How to Find Help. (Accessed 2020, June 15).
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: SAMHSA: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. TIP 34: Brief Interventions and Brief Therapies for Substance Abuse. (2012, September). (2020, June 15).
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Advancing Addiction Science. The Science of Drug Use: Discussion Points. (2020, May 26). (2020, June 15).
- NIH: New in Health: A Monthly Newsletter from the National Institutes of Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dealing With Drug Problems: Preventing and Treating Drug Abuse. (2017, June). (2020, June 15).
- Mayo Clinic. Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction. (2017, July 20). (2020, June 15).