If someone you love fights with an addiction, you might be left feeling helpless and unsure of what to do. Understanding addiction from the outside can be difficult. Here are some suggestions that should help you get some direction so that you can be an ally in your loved one’s recovery.
The first step is to encourage them to seek professional help. You can research doctors and resources that have experience with addiction. Your loved one should be evaluated by a mental health professional, as well as a physician. This allows them to understand more about the severity of their condition. It’s the first step in making things better. Help your loved one explore a few different options, and encourage them not to get disheartened if the first time doesn’t feel right–it might take a couple tries to find the right resource.
Once your loved one is getting professional help for their addiction, here are four ways you can continue to be a support:
1. PARTICIPATE IN GROUP COUNSELING
Many recovery programs offer group counseling or family counseling in which others are invited to participate. Let your loved one knows that you’d be happy to be a part of it, and then go in with an open mind. Be ready to confront your own misconceptions and feelings.
Other times, you’re not explicitly invited to group counseling, but very few places will turn you away if you’re just there to support a friend. So, if your friend’s first step in seeking help for addiction is to go to a group counseling session and learn more, you can hold their hand through it. Often, whether or not you struggle with addiction, there are amazing things that you can learn in counseling that will benefit you in life and empower you to help your loved one better.
2. LEARN ALL YOU CAN
Understanding more about addiction can help you be more sympathetic, and counter the frustrations that crop up for both you and your loved one in the process of recovery. Learn what you can do to help them avoid relapse triggers, and build up new, effective coping techniques. You can also learn about things that you can do to help them be healthier, like nutrition, or emergency resources, like Naloxone to counter opiate overdoses. If you’re worried your loved one is suicidal, or that they’re driving under the influence, there are plenty of resources you can reach out to here. (https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment/what-to-do-if-your-adult-friend-or-loved-one-has-problem-drugs)
3. EXPRESS LOVE, SUPPORT, AND CONCERN
The scariest thing about addiction is the way that it fills us with shame and causes us to withdraw. Addiction thrives in isolation and secrecy, so the best thing that you can do is offer your love, support, and empathy. This is an especially important step to remember when recovery takes longer than you or your friend both thought it would. After a relapse, it can be hard to stay positive and supportive, but it’s important that you keep showing them love and patience. Recovery is an ongoing process, not a quick fix.
4. SET BOUNDARIES AND STICK TO THEM
It’s important to remember that while helping someone struggling with addiction, you also need to take care of yourself. Don’t put up with violations of trust and personal boundaries. Draw a line between what behavior you are and aren’t okay with. For example, set a rule that your friend has to be clean and sober if they’re in your house. Or you can walk away from a conversation if they’re being irrational or violent. Setting your own boundaries and sticking to them can (1) help your loved one learn to set and honor their own boundaries, (2) remind them about goals that they’ve already set, (3) help them understand how their actions affect others.