7 of the Best Tips on How to Help Someone Battling Addiction
There are few experiences more difficult or heartbreaking than watching someone you love struggle with addiction. When someone you love is being controlled by their addiction you’re often left feeling helpless and powerless. It seems like there’s nothing you can do to help them.
Even if you feel like there’s nothing you can do to help someone who’s battling addiction, there are some ways you can be helpful. Wondering what you can do? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Educate Yourself
There are a lot of persistent misconceptions about addiction that make it really hard to understand.
For example, many people still believe that addiction is a choice. They believe that if the addict tried hard enough to quit or wanted to quit enough that they would be able to quit. This belief is based on the misconception that addicts are people with weak willpower, who cannot “just say no.”
In reality, addiction is a disease of both the body and the mind. The disease of the body manifests as the physical addiction to the addict’s substance of choice. Addiction is also a mental illness that manifests as an obsession with consuming the addict’s substance of choice, often to escape co-existing mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.
If you want to help someone struggling with addiction, you’ll need to understand how the disease of addiction works, how it manifests in their life, and how it can be treated. One of the best resources for learning about addiction is the book Alcoholics Anonymous, which is the basis of the 12-step program of the same name.
Books published by Hazelden Publishing are also very helpful resources for understanding addiction.
If you’re going to turn to the Internet for your information about addiction, be sure to find reputable sources. Webpages that end in .org or .gov are more likely to have accurate information.
Being well-informed about the disease of addiction and why addicts act the way they do will help you to talk to your loved one with compassion and empathy.
2. Let Them Know You Care
Addiction is often called the disease of loneliness, and anyone who’s battling addiction can tell you why. Addiction isolates people from those they love because the addiction becomes more important than relationships. And many addicts end up ruining their close relationships because their behavior, driven their addiction, causes them to hurt those they love the most.
This leaves most addicts feeling like there isn’t anyone in the world who cares about them. So, if you do care about someone who is struggling with addiction, it’s important to let them know you still care.
Tell them how much you love them and how important they are to you. And tell them that you care about their health and what happens to them.
Finding out that someone does, in fact, care about them and what happens to them will let the addict know that they are not as alone as they believe and that what they do to themselves does matter to someone else.
3. Tell Them the Truth
While addicts do need to hear that people care about them, they also need to hear the difficult truths about how their behavior is impacting others. Many people who love addicts fear telling them the truth because they don’t want to upset the addict, who may lash out at them or use substances as a result of the uncomfortable conversation.
Though it’s hard to do, it’s very important to be honest with those you love who are struggling with addiction. They need to know that their behavior doesn’t impact just them. They need to know that their behavior is hurting you. They need to know that you worry about them all the time.
If they get angry at you and refuse to listen, accept that they aren’t yet ready to hear the truth. Try again later. But no matter what, keep being honest. Sugarcoating how you feel about their addiction won’t help them at all.
4. Encourage Them to Get Help
To get and stay sober, addicts need to receive treatment for their disease. Anyone who truly has the disease of addiction will not be able to stop using substances without help.
It’s incredibly important for you as the loved one of an addict to understand that you are not qualified to help your loved one get sober. Unless you’re a certified substance abuse counselor or a recovered addict yourself, then you don’t have the necessary training or experience to get them sober.
And even if you are a certified substance abuse counselor or a recovered addict yourself, you’re probably not the one that your loved one wants to receive treatment from. You’re too close to the situation to be truly helpful.
So, it’s very important to encourage your addicted loved one to seek professional treatment. Help them find an inpatient or outpatient opiate rehab and addiction treatment program. Or suggest that they attend a 12-step program.
If they are resistant to getting treatment, continue to reinforce that addiction is a disease that requires treatment.
5. Let Them Know You Believe in Them
Many addicts don’t seek treatment because they are convinced that it’s impossible for them to stop using substances. They’re so afraid of failing to get sober that they don’t even try.
This is where you can provide the boost they need. You can assure them that you believe they are capable of getting and staying sober. Remind them that anyone can get sober if they are willing to seek treatment and commit to their recovery.
Letting them know that you believe in them may provide the confidence they need to attempt sobriety. And reminding them that you believe in them can provide the support they need to stay sober once they seek treatment.
6. Give a Little Tough Love
There’s a fine line between providing love and support to an addict and enabling an addict. Sometimes the actions you take that you think are helping the addict are actually helping them avoid the consequences of their addiction.
Addicts need to experience the consequences of their disease before they get sober. If they don’t understand that their disease is hurting them and others, they won’t see the need to get sober.
One of the most painful things to do when you love an addict is to give them tough love. This may look like telling them that they can’t live with you anymore. Or it may look like cutting them off financially. It may even look like telling them that you can’t associate with them anymore because their behavior is so harmful to you.
As painful as it is to dish out this tough love, it’s necessary for the addict’s well-being. And more importantly, it’s necessary for your well-being.
7. Take Care of Yourself
When you’re trying to be helpful to an addict, it’s essential to put your well-being first. Though they don’t intend to be, the disease of addiction makes addicts energetic vampires. They’ll suck you dry if you let them.
Addicts will also break your heart over and over if you let them. They don’t mean to, but they can’t help it. Their addiction rules their life and it makes them do things they would never do if they weren’t in the throes of their disease.
So, you need to take care of yourself when you’re helping an addict. If they’re hurting you, you need to stop trying to help. If your mental health is suffering from trying to help, you need to stop. If they’re taking advantage of you, you need to stop trying to help.
You cannot let an addict drag you down with them.
Helping Someone Battling Addiction
Helping someone who’s battling addiction is a difficult task. You can try these suggestions, but it’s important to remember that you have no control over the addict or their addiction. It’s possible that they may not get sober, no matter how much you try to help.
So, do what you can, but keep your expectations low. Try to help, but be willing to disengage if the addict is being harmful or you’re getting hurt.
For more information about helping someone you love who is struggling with addiction, check out our blog post about what’s important in recovery.