Helping a Loved One Struggling with Addiction

What You Should and Shouldn’t Do 

a man trying to help a loved one struggling with addiction

Are you having a hard time accepting that a loved one is struggling with alcohol or drugs? 

Do you feel heartbroken, angry, and confused all at the same time?

We understand that finding out about a loved one’s addiction can be devastating. However, you need to stay calm and strong. While the addiction issue is not something you should sweep under the rug, you shouldn’t panic either, as it will only make it worse for your loved one. 

They may already be miserable and on the verge of losing hope. Instead of making it difficult for them, you must help a loved one struggling with addiction and support them on their journey to recovery. We know that this is easier said than done. Addiction doesn’t only impact the addict but also the lives of the people around them. Besides, recovery is a difficult, lifelong process, and it often requires constant support and appreciation from the loved ones. But it surely is possible. 

5 Things You Need to Do to Help a Loved One Struggling with Addiction  

We won’t deny that supporting a loved one on the path to recovery is challenging. But to make it a little easier for you, we’ve rounded up the best ways to help a loved one struggling with addiction.

  1. Educate Yourself about Addiction

First and foremost, you must have proper knowledge about addiction and the struggles of an addict. You can only truly help someone when you step into their shoes. Unless you’ve been exposed to drug or alcohol addiction, you only know what you see.

You can get several educational and informational resources on the internet or in public libraries, which will help you better understand what addiction is like and what your loved one is going through. Take ample time to do your research, as it will benefit you as well as your loved one. You will get to know about the critical signs that you need to look out for. This will also help you determine the severity of your loved one’s addiction problem.  

You can start your research by checking out the following trusted resources:

All in all, you must understand that with excessive use of alcohol or drug, a person develops a tolerance for it. This means that they will need higher doses of the substance to experience the kind of effect they expect. What’s worse is that their body eventually starts to rely on that substance to function properly. This is known as dependence. If the individual reduces the dosage or frequency of use or tries to quit altogether, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. Their body will crave more and more for that particular substance.    

The more you know about addiction and how it works, the easier it will be for you to stay calm and help a loved one struggling with addiction. So, make sure you know what ongoing use of the substance can do to your loved one and what you should do in case of an overdose.  

Tell Your Loved One You’ve Got Their Back 

a couple holding hands

The next step is to talk to your loved one about their addiction. We understand that it can be an overwhelming and intimidating conversation, but there’s no way you can avoid it. It is always better to have it sooner rather than later.

If you’re too confused, you can always consult with a professional and ask for their advice before confronting your loved one. Remember, the goal is to get them to share the details with you and not point fingers at them.

 Another important thing is to talk to them when they are sober. You may even want to write down some important pointers of what you want to say before starting the conversation. It will help you stay on track and not get distracted during the conversation.

While talking to your loved one about their addiction problem, you must stay calm, be honest, and convey that you’re there to help and support them no matter what happens. 

Encourage Them to Get Help

Intervening with compassion and empathy is the key to encouraging your loved one to get help for addiction. You must not wait for this for too long because the earlier they get treatment, the better. 

That being said, you shouldn’t be surprised if they deny they have a problem or come up with excuses as to why they wouldn’t seek help. You will have to be persistent and persuasive to convince them that they can get better with treatment. Make sure you don’t say anything to make them feel guilty or ashamed. 

If you think your loved one’s addiction is of high severity, you might want to take the intervention route. You can bring in an intervention specialist to help you with it.

Make it Easy for Them to Receive Treatment 

a man accompanying a woman for her treatment session

Once your loved one agrees to receive treatment for their addiction problem, you would want to do everything in your power to make the process seamless for them. Ideally, you should be available at all times to help them in any possible way. Be mindful of anything that might hinder their road to recovery. 

If they have a child to take care of or don’t have a means of transportation, see if you can help with anything. It will be best if you can accompany your loved one to their appointments in the initial days. Deciding to seek treatment for addiction is a big step, and it can make anyone apprehensive, so make sure you support and encourage them at every step of the way to prevent them from backing down.

  1. Get Support from a Counselor 

We can’t stress enough the importance of taking care of your mental health while helping a loved one struggling with addiction. It is natural to forget about your own health and well-being when you see your friend or family member going through a tough time. However, if you don’t take proper care of yourself, you won’t take good care of them. 

Besides eating healthy, doing regular exercise, maintaining a proper sleep schedule, and taking some time out for things you love, you should consider getting counseling services from a professional. Your loved one’s addiction can take a toll on your mental health. Counseling or mental health support groups can help you stay grounded throughout the journey, ensuring that you can provide maximum help to your loved one.

Please don’t think that it is selfish. You can only help your loved one overcome their addiction if you’re completely happy and healthy.

5 Things to Avoid When Trying to Help a Loved One Struggling with Addiction 

Below are the five things you shouldn’t do once you realize that a loved one struggles with addiction. 

Don’t Take it Lightly

Addiction can ruin lives. Please don’t ignore the problem if you find out that a loved one struggles with alcohol or substance abuse. 

We know it is hard to accept that a close friend or family member can fall into the trap of addiction, but ignoring the warning signs will do no good. Don’t tell yourself, “It’s not that bad,” and don’t ever make the mistake of assuming that they will ‘snap out of it’ after some time. Trust us when we say that the problem will only worsen with time because addiction is a progressive disease. The more you let your loved one use alcohol or drug, the more you’ll help worsen their condition.

You need to see the situation objectively instead of making excuses for your loved ones or ignoring their problem's severity.      

Don’t Blame or Shame Them 

While it is natural to feel upset and angry upon knowing about a loved one’s addiction, you need to understand that it is a disease. It can happen to anyone. It’s not like they woke up one morning and decided to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Keep in mind that it is a challenging time for the addict and they don’t need your judgment.

Instead of blaming them or looking down on them for consuming alcohol or drugs, you must try your best to be understanding and supportive of what they’re going through. Forget about society’s stigma around the subject and do what’s best for your friend or family member. They can and will get better. You just need to have faith in them. Your support means the world to them.

Don’t Force Them to Quit

two adults having an argument

Many people make the mistake of showing tough love after they find out about a loved one’s addiction. They think that ultimatums will force them to quit and get back on the right track. This may even work in the beginning but not for long. Until and unless your loved one feels ready to quit and is willing to get sober, you can do nothing to stop them from going back to their old habits. 

Many addicts go back to using drugs and consuming alcohol as soon as they get out of the rehabilitation center. The reason is that they weren’t ready to go in there in the first place. So, instead of forcing your loved one to quit, you should invest your time and effort into making them realize what they have gotten themselves into and explaining the negative consequences of addiction on their health and life in general.  

Don’t Enable Them

When it comes to helping a loved one struggling with addiction, there is a fine line between supporting and enabling. The latter only reinforces their actions and reduces the chances of their recovery. 

Watching a friend or family member struggle right in front of your eyes is difficult. You would obviously want to do everything you can to decrease their suffering. However, you must not do anything that enables them more than it helps. 

A few common mistakes people make when trying to help a loved one struggling with addiction include:

  • Excusing their behavior and mistakes
  • Paying their bills
  • Be readily available to bail them out of trouble
  • Lying for them
  • Giving them money

We understand that you want to help as much as you can, but these are not the ways to do so. You need to look at the bigger picture and analyze if your behavior and decisions are helping them. With the aforementioned actions, you will be enabling your loved one to continue using the drugs and consuming alcohol albeit unintentionally.  

Don’t Have Unrealistic Expectations

The journey of supporting a loved one on their road to recovery is already complicated. You don’t need to make it even more challenging by watering unrealistic expectations. 

Having high hopes and unrealistic expectations may compel you to lecture your loved one or preach about recovery. You can’t make them promise something and then get angry when they fail to fulfill what they promised. People can’t keep promises when they are struggling with addiction. 

That being said, it is easy to get frustrated with your loved one if they don’t show any progress on their road to recovery, especially when you have been doing everything in your power to make the process easy for them. However, you need to be patient and not lose hope. The last thing your friend or family member would want to hear is that you don’t believe in their ability to recover. Remember, if you give up on them, they will likely give up on themselves too. 

Final Words

Battling addiction is not an easy feat. A strong support system can make all the difference for someone struggling with this disease. If you want to help a loved one struggling with addiction, you must understand that pursuing recovery is almost as challenging as quitting drugs or alcohol. With the tips in this guide, you can shower them with the love, care, and support they need to overcome addiction for good.  Now that you know how to help a loved one struggling with addiction make sure you consult with a qualified and experienced professional to make the recovery road as smooth as possible for them.      

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