There is no definitive rulebook on how best to help someone with an addiction. No matter how obvious the addiction is, committing to get help for an addicted friend or relative you care about is an inherently challenging and heart-wrenching decision. But it has to be done, and the upside is that the more support you offer your loved one, the higher their chance of making a full recovery. Yes, different addicts react to their reality check in different ways, but the following guidelines can help you inform yourself to take the best action.
Facts to know about helping someone with an addiction:
- Building trust is critical
- Honesty is the best policy
- Privacy still applies, despite the addiction
- Threats and criticism inevitably lead to failure
- Lasting change will not happen overnight
The Road to Recovery Will Likely Be Rocky and Drawn Out
When you commit to helping someone close to you overcome their addiction, there are common roadblocks that will most likely stand in your way. But it is important to remember that, while the list can be daunting, the obstacles are not insurmountable. Brace yourself to understand that your loved one with an addiction:
- Will likely deny they have a problem
- Might seem to actually enjoy their addictive behavior at times
- Could be afraid of losing their job or landing in legal trouble
- May be embarrassed and unwilling to discuss the issue with you or anyone else, even a professional counselor or treatment center specialist
- May have deep-seated issues that led to their addiction and continue to feed their behavior
If you want to help someone with an addiction, there is unfortunately not going to be a fast, simple solution. You can demonstrate a resolute unwillingness to give in, but without the buy-in of the addict, all the attempted persuasion in the world won’t make an instant difference. The buy-in needed for your loved one’s recovery will happen over time, as a result of a combination of supportive techniques and steps. Thinking and planning for a long-term program is the way to recovery, and importantly, helps you cope as well. If you know from the start that helping a loved one overcome addiction is a long road, you can set realistic expectations.
How to Help Someone with An Addiction: A Step-By-Step Guideline
Step 1: Trust Is the Cornerstone of Recovery
Addiction inevitably involves a betrayal of trust, so step one is to rebuild that trust. There are two things to keep in mind about trust in relation to addiction: First, it runs both ways; and second, it can be a case of two steps forward, one step back.
When trying to help someone with an addiction, the following behaviors are detrimental to building trust:
- Addicted people may feel mistrusted when they are verbally pressured or told what to do.
- Stress can encourage raised voices and unfair accusations, but a sense of calm helps build trust.
- A person who wants to be trusted needs to display trustworthy behavior to set an example.
Trust and control are complex topics when you are figuring out how to help a drug addict. After all, you know you have your loved one’s best interests at heart, but they might not react well to what they perceive as “being controlled.” This can lead to a cycle of elevated drug use.
It can be difficult to know how to talk to a drug addict, but it helps to keep in mind that building trust is a two-way process. Drawing the line at bad behavior helps set boundaries, and consequently builds trust. But realistically, there are cases where placing trust in a drug addict is simply not an option. Those with addictions often do not welcome or accept change until they experience a consequence of their damaging behavior, but it is not always up to their supporters to deliver this consequence. It takes time and patience to help someone with a drug addiction.
If trust is not possible at the moment, many people are forced to head directly for step two — and sometimes, that’s the best way.
Step 2: Sometimes You Have to Look After Number One
It hurts. It hurts badly to be close to someone with a drug addiction. If you do not look after yourself and get help when needed, you cannot help someone else. As with all steps in overcoming drug addiction, this can take time, and it is time well spent.
Step 3: Be Honest Without Using Threats
Communication is paramount to helping someone addicted to drugs. But ultimately, the decision to turn their life around rests with them. The best you can hope for is that your gentle touch in terms of honest communication eventually hits home. If you do not engage in or resort to threats, aggressive arguments, or continual verbal pressure, the one you care about is more likely to respond honestly and positively.
Step 4: The Treatment Process
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for drug addicts. But treatment processes for all kinds of addictions and personality types are available, and have proven successful. It can be a long, rocky road to reach the beginning of step four, and a specialist facility such as Beachway Therapy Center can guide you toward a future of smooth sailing for you and your loved one.
Addiction Recovery: Accompanied or Solo?
You may have assumed you will always remain side by side with the one you care about, assisting them at all points in their journey to recovery. But for some, that is not how it pans out, for one reason or another. Whether or not you can — or want to — be right alongside your loved one at every stage, here are some ways to support them as they face their addiction head-on:
Stay Involved In a Treatment Support Role Through Counseling:
- Trust is everything. Keep step one at the forefront of your mind at all times. Trust-building should never stop.
- During counseling, don’t shy away from being honest about how you are coping, the pressure you have felt, and what you need to happen. Do this without inflicting humiliation or delivering criticism. Your best bet is to openly communicate how you feel.
- Expect the unexpected. Drug addicts often try to place blame on others, so if this happens to you, recognize the behavior and continue to stay positive, calm, and reassuring.
Stay Supportive If Your Loved One Needs to Attend Counseling Alone:
- Addicts have a right to privacy, and when you respect that right by keeping their treatments private, they will trust you more.
- What happens in therapy, stays in therapy. This is OK, and it is expected. You should trust that even if you were not at the counseling meeting, what was discussed there was productive and constructive.
If you are trying to figure out how to help a drug addict, there is no one formula that is guaranteed to work every time for all types of people. But if you remember that change will take time, and whenever possible, build reciprocal trust and communicate honestly without criticism, you will be well placed to help the one you care about overcome their drug addiction.