Tips on How to Help an Addict

Addiction is the loss of control of whether or not to use a drug and knowing when or how to stop. Addiction starts with drug abuse, which is the initial time when someone is deliberately choosing to misuse a drug or alcohol. At this initial stage they still have a choice, and they are making that choice. Over time, drug abuse rewires the brain and/or body and turns to addiction. At this point, the user no longer makes that choice willingly. Their brain or body now has a disease and sees that drug as a survival mechanism.

It’s important to realize and understand this distinction if you want to help an addict. When you initially find out or suspect that your loved one has an addiction, you might be shocked, angry or disgusted. You may start to blame yourself, especially if it’s your own son or daughter. It’s also likely that you may go into denial. Besides the fact that it’s easier to pretend that something doesn’t exist, we want to ultimately believe the good in people.

My son would never do drugs, we’ve talked about it a hundred times!

He’s seen what it did to his friend, he would never do that.

He wouldn’t do that to me and his family, he’s a good boy!

The first most important thing you need to do is admit it to yourself that your loved one has a problem.

So How Do You Convince an Addict They Need Help?

Let’s be clear, you cannot convince an addict that they need help. Oh you can try, but in all likelihood you will fail. What you can do, is you can support them and provide opportunities to help them make the right decision for themselves. They must come to the conclusion that they need help. They must want the help. Overcoming addiction is hard and it’s a long journey that requires continuous maintenance. You may convince your friend, your spouse, your son or daughter today, but three days or three weeks from now if they don’t want to change for themselves, they’ll just resort back to their old ways. It’s the easier route. It’s the more alluring and comfortable route. Unless of course, they want to change for themselves. Then, and only then, it’s easier for them to have a little extra courage, a little extra resolve, to stay on course. To stay in rehab. To maintain their sober life.

The next step is to educate yourself. You can’t help someone with something you don’t understand. And unless you’ve been through it yourself or thoroughly researched it before, you don’t understand. So read up on addiction and how it works. Understand the withdrawal process, symptoms and side effects. Look up the specific drug and its effects. Read into the steps of detox, rehab treatment and recovery. Be completely understanding that this is not something you treat for a month and then you’re good and never have to worry about it again. Remember this is a disease, so like diabetes … it can come back without maintenance.

By educating yourself you may be able to then determine which stage of addiction your loved one is in. This can be hard to figure out, but there are some clear signs if it’s still early enough to be able to talk directly with them or if you’re well past that stage. Calling a detox and rehab facility like St. John’s Recover Place and speaking with a professional can be a great way to help you with this process. You can always reach us at 1-833-EZ-REHAB (397-3422.)

How to Help an Addict Get Help

At this point, you should have a conversation with your loved one. It’s important you speak to them when they are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You also don’t necessarily have to be completely transparent about what you’re talking about. It’s easy to have a conversation where you both know what you’re talking about without actually having to say those specific “scary” words. Sometimes that helps to ease the tension, yet still gets the point across.

Make sure you are offering your support and not using guilt. Lectures, blame, and ultimatums get you nowhere fast. It’s easy for you both to just get defensive and that’s about the least productive thing you can do for them. Instead, positively encourage them and help them find support at treatment centers, bring them to doctor appointments or help with basics like cleaning their house when they’re having a rough day. You can also try to get them involved in other more healthy activities and hobbies.

Most importantly, stop enabling. Don’t loan them money. If they come to you that they need some cash for groceries, gas, or to fix their car for example, you can instead offer to get them the groceries or take their car for them because there’s a good chance they’re using some or all of that cash to get their next fix. Stop covering up for them. Don’t encourage the lies for why they can’t come to family events or why they’re not feeling well. Don’t call in for excused absences at school or answer when their boss calls giving a made up story of why they’re not at work again . They need to start dealing with the repercussions for themselves.

Additional Steps For How to Help an Addicted Son, Daughter or Spouse

When dealing with your child or spouse, make sure you set clear guidelines and consequences, and stick to them. Sit down with your loved one and discuss acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Together come up with rules and consequences for not following them. But make sure you are strict and follow the guidelines you set up every time. If you are inconsistent it doesn’t reinforce the seriousness of the situation.

One additional thing you can do for your spouse or child is to get a doctor involved. You can remind them that they are due (or past due) for a routine physical and schedule an appointment for them. Speak with the doctor ahead of time and inform them of the addiction. Doctors are better able to identify issues and can often see past the lies of an addict, offering advice for the next steps of recovery. Coming from an outsider, this might help your loved one see things from a different perspective and start to think clearly about the situation.

How to Help an Addict Who Refuses Help

I can’t keep doing this, can I just force them into rehab? No. Well, technically in some states, yes. But in others, it’s not legal. And as we mentioned before, detox and recovery are difficult to say the least, and someone forced into the situation is likely not going to complete the process and recover well.

At this point the two best things you can do are an intervention and/or get help for yourself. Seek the help of a professional interventionist. Together with family, friends or even coworkers, you’ll be able to confront your loved one and force them to listen to the impact they are making on the people that care about them. It might be just the thing they need to open their eyes, realize they do have a problem, and decide that they want to seek help.

But in the end, you can only control your own actions and if your loved one isn’t budging, you need to take care of your own mental wellbeing at this point. Seek a support group for family/friends of addicts. Support groups can be a great source of hope and stress relief. The other members understand your situation and may be able to offer additional insights and be there for you when you need advice or just a friend to sit with. There’s also a chance that as your loved one sees you getting help, something might finally click inside of them to get help as well.