Seeing a loved one struggle to overcome addiction, trapped in a vicious cycle of wanting to quit, but not knowing how, can be hopelessly painful. No one wants to see their loved one suffer, or make decisions that damage his or her life, but how can you make an impact when you are fighting against an invisible enemy with a firm grasp on someone you love? If you have a friend or family member addicted to drugs or alcohol, know that you are not helpless. You can make a difference, and you can help your loved one to obtain the professional help and treatment they need to begin the path to healing.
For many addicts, early intervention is the key to recovery. Don’t be tempted to wait and see if your loved one can break the habit on his own, or expect that he would have to fully hit rock bottom before help is necessary. If you have identified that your loved one has substance use disorder or is headed in that direction, speak with him or her as soon as possible. Doing so will offer the best likelihood for an effective, and less intense, detoxification and recovery process.
Setting the Stage
Before beginning a conversation with your loved one about their addiction, understand that your words will be best received if they are non-confrontational. Be prepared to have a supportive, and constructive conversation, not to make demands or argue your point. Those who are trapped by addiction may be defensive, or easily roused to anger. Your words will be better received if given in a considerate, and sensitive tone.
Framing the Discussion
Having an honest conversation with a loved one about their addiction and your desire for them to seek help can be difficult. Keep the following advice in mind when planning for your discussion:
- Don’t have the discussion when your loved one, or you, are under the influence.
- Make sure you have enough time to have a full, constructive discussion.
- Ask in advance for a time when you can talk about something that’s been on your mind, rather than having the conversation unexpectedly.
- Describe the behaviors you’ve observed and why they concern you. Provide specific examples, rather than generalized statements. Emphasize your concern for their health and well-being and your desire to see them through recovery.
Don’t Ask the Addict to Quit Immediately and Permanently
Asking someone to suddenly abstain permanently is not realistic for most addicts. In addition, sudden withdrawal could put your loved one at risk for uncomfortable, or dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Instead, encourage him or her to seek professional recovery treatment.
Suggest a Screening
If you think your loved one may have an addiction, but you are unsure, ask if he or she would be willing to obtain a substance abuse screening. A professional will be able to meet with your loved one, and through a series of questions, determine if he or she may need to adopt a treatment plan and work with a professional.
Provide A List of Resources
A desire to quit is only the first step. Addiction cannot be willed away. The best way for you to help your loved one will be to provide options for professional resources that you and your loved one can explore together. Depending on the recovery needs you think the addict may need, consider inpatient treatment facilities, behavioral therapists, and support groups. Also be sure to research facilities and experts that specialize in the specific type of addiction your loved one is facing.
Get Help for Yourself
If the addict in your life is a parent, child, or loved one, the impact on your life and your own emotional and physical well-being may be severe. Consider getting help for yourself so that you can be best equipped to support your loved one and see them through treatment. Consider these support organizations:
- Nar-Anon – A 12 step program for families and friends of addicts
- Al-Anon – Strength and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers
- Seek a private therapist or counselor
Support Sober Activities
Once the addict has begun the process of recovery, help him or her to stay sober by staying away from temptations. Accompany your loved one to places, events, and social scenes where they will not be exposed to their drug of choice.
Stay Positive and Supportive
The path to recovery can be long. Continue to reaffirm for your loved one throughout the recovery process that you support and care about them. Your continual presence and confidence will help to be a guiding force for positive change.