How To Help A Loved One With Addiction
It’s heartbreaking to watch a loved one struggle with addiction. You may feel helpless—afraid to do or say the wrong thing that could make the problem worse. But addressing the problem is the first step to healing.
If you approach the situation carefully and treat your loved one with respect, there are many ways to help them.
Learn About Addiction
Knowing a little about addiction can help you connect with your loved one. Instead of seeming like you don’t understand what they’re going through, you can show them sympathy and genuine concern.
When you understand how addiction works and know the signs and symptoms of certain substances, you can be more aware of how serious the situation is for your loved one.
Knowing that addiction is a chronic brain disease can help you avoid blaming them or feeling resentful toward them. Instead, you can support their healing and help them find recovery.
Talk To Them Calmly
Some people avoid talking about addiction and substance abuse because it’s painful or unpleasant. But silence doesn’t help your loved one. It may make the problem worse by allowing them to feel isolated and unloved, which can trigger substance use.
Approach them in private, not in public, and express your concerns in a non-judgemental way. Be specific. Generalizing about how addiction is bad for them may not be helpful, but pointing out situations in which they put themselves or others in danger might open their eyes.
Even though you’re addressing issues related to their substance abuse, be sure not to attack them. Listen more than you talk. You may begin to understand their struggle and motivate them out of it.
Avoid Common Mistakes
Blame is one of the most damaging things to an addicted person. If you blame them for the problem, you make them seem weak and guilty, which could worsen the problem.
If you blame yourself, you may enable them or make excuses for their behavior, which doesn’t help anyone. Many people enable their loved ones by supporting them financially and not setting boundaries. This allows them to continue negative behaviors with no consequences.
Lecturing, preaching, or reacting in anger isn’t helpful either. Addiction is a disease that changes brain structure. Even if your loved one wants to stop using drugs or alcohol, they may be unable to stop on their own. Anger and hostility can drive them back to drugs or alcohol to cope.
Talk To Them When They’re Sober
Because drugs and alcohol affect the mind, they can change the way your loved one thinks. They aren’t themselves when they’re under the influence. They may feel attacked or they may not remember the things you say.
Your loved one probably started using drugs because it made them feel good. Trying to talk them out of substance use when they’re feeling the positive effects is pointless and can make them less open to listening to you when they’re sober.
Your loved one is more likely to see the negative effects that addiction has in their life when they’re sober. They should be able to have a more rational conversation and admit that it’s bad for them in the long run.
Encourage Them To Get Help
Your loved one may realize they need help with addiction. Or, they may think they have it under control. Talking to them can give them the courage to seek treatment, especially if they know you support the decision.
Many people are afraid to ask for help for addiction. Stigma prevents them from reaching out for fear of being rejected, even by their family and friends. Your goal should be to make your loved one feel safe asking for help.
This doesn’t mean pushing them into treatment if they aren’t ready for it. Forcing someone into rehab may lead to dropout, relapse, and an aversion to treatment in the future.
Instead, share stories of people who’ve had success in recovery. Research addiction treatment methods that have helped others heal. Let them know there’s hope.
Hold An Intervention
If you don’t feel you’re making a difference by yourself, gathering other loved ones together for an intervention may be effective. You can even work with an intervention specialist to ensure you go about it in the best way.
An intervention should be loving and supportive. The goal is to convince your loved one to seek addiction treatment. Everyone present should be informed on the situation and convinced that treatment is the best option.
You should also be prepared for opposition from your loved one, such as “it’s not that serious,” or “I can quit anytime I want.” Gently express your concern that addiction has control over them and encourage them to seek help so they can live a better life.
Be Supportive, Not Enabling
Opening communication with your loved one doesn’t mean they’ll go into addiction treatment right away. Be patient. Support the healthy choices they make and continue to encourage positive change.
Just be careful not to support their substance abuse. Giving them money or a place to stay may seem like support, but if you’re making it easier for them to get drugs or alcohol, it’s enabling. Set boundaries and enforce consequences so it’s clear that you support them as a person, not their addiction.
If your loved one chooses to enter addiction treatment, it’s important to remember they won’t be cured overnight. Recovery is a lifelong process that often begins slowly. Celebrate the progress they make, even if it takes longer than you hope.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by your loved one’s addiction and forget to take care of yourself. But you can’t be helpful to them if you have no physical or emotional energy left. It’s vital to meet your own needs first.
Some people become codependent on their addicted loved ones. Signs of codependency include:
- taking responsibility for their negative actions
- putting them first, even if it’s unreasonable
- doing anything to avoid abandonment
- setting no personal boundaries
- having difficulty expressing emotions or talking about problems
Codependent behavior is the opposite of how to help a loved one with addiction. Their substance abuse affects you too. Take time to do things you love and nurture your mental health. Only trying to help them doesn’t help anyone.
Explore Addiction Treatment Options
You can explore addiction treatment options with your loved one (if they’re ready) or on your own before you approach them. Having an idea of what to expect in treatment can make it less scary to them when you encourage them to get help.
The best alcohol and drug rehab centers offer individualized treatment through a variety of proven therapies. These programs may include family therapy, support, and education so you can be part of your loved one’s recovery.
To learn about our comprehensive rehab programs at ARK Behavioral Health, reach out to one of our treatment specialists today.
Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
©2021 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
This page does not provide medical advice.
Mayo Clinic - Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction
Mental Health America - Co-Dependency
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