How to Help Someone With Drug Addiction: 10 Ways to Support Them
When someone you care about is struggling with addiction, it can also feel like a struggle to help.
The difficult truth is that recovery from drug addiction is usually a long and complicated journey. With the support of a loved one (like you!) it can be easier for the person you care about to begin their journey and see it through to the joy of long-term recovery at the end.
If you don’t have much experience with drug or alcohol addiction, the whole situation can quickly feel overwhelming. It could feel a lot easier to simply ignore the situation or back away. However, it’s often worth the time and effort to encourage someone suffering from substance use disorder (SUD) to identify their problem and seek a solution.
Are you trying to navigate the complexities of addiction by being a support system for a loved one? Let us help. Master Center has provided treatment to thousands of individuals with substance use disorder and support for their families and friends since 2016.
There are things you can do to provide the most help and a few things to avoid in order to offer the best chance of recovery.
10 Ways to Support Someone with Drug Addiction
For an individual struggling with a substance use disorder, deciding to get help is not always easy. The good news is that studies, such as this one and this one, have shown that the additional love and support of someone close to the individual with SUD leads to a much higher chance of recovery.
While each situation of addiction has its own unique sets of circumstances and factors at play, there are some general guidelines as to the best way to help someone and offer support.
1. Educate Yourself
When you’re inexperienced with drug addiction, it can be easy to base assumptions on what you see in the behavior of your loved one. By educating yourself on the addiction itself as well as the symptoms and causes, you’ll be better equipped to understand the disease and react with compassion.
You won’t become an expert right away, and that’s okay. Putting in the time to educate yourself will be beneficial to both you and the individual with SUD. You’ll be more in tune with what they are going through and better equipped to speak with them about their experience.
2. Communicate Your Concerns
The person you care about won’t know that you are concerned about them or that you think they have a problem unless you tell them.
You’ll need to understand that what you identify as a problem might not seem like a big deal to them. That’s part of the power of addiction. They need to be the one to decide that they need change, but you can help them to understand how their addiction is hurting you and those around them.
Be sure not to threaten them, but instead come from a place of love, compassion, and genuine concern.
3. Keep a Positive Mindset
It’s essential to try to seek the positives in the situation and celebrate the progress made. Changing addictive behavior is hard, just like making any significant change of habit. Yet it’s even harder than that because there are chemicals involved that interfere with the ability to make well thought-out decisions.
Even if the person you’re supporting slips up, try to remain positive. Use supportive communication to explore what led to the slip-up, and then figure out how to avoid it in the future. You don’t want your loved one to slide back, so encourage them to see how far they’ve come already.
4. Offer Your Support
Often, individuals with SUD can’t truly grasp how much their family members and friends care about them and love them. Even though it may be evident to you, drug use can skew their perspective or create distance between them and those they love.
After you tell your loved one that you are concerned about their health and drug or alcohol use, be sure to include that you’re along for the ride as support. Knowing they’ll have someone to lean on every step of the way can be a huge relief.
5. Establish and Honor Boundaries
Creating boundaries is crucial when dealing with someone in the grips of addiction. It can be easy to feel responsible for keeping them clean and safe, but that’s not your job. If you want to help someone, your job is to provide appropriate loving support. It is not your duty to overextend yourself for their sake.
Establish boundaries to protect yourself and your energy. Limits can be things such as the times you’re available to talk on the phone or ways that you are willing to contribute, like healthy meals and rides to doctor appointments. Once you establish boundaries with your loved one, honor them. They will respect you for keeping your word and appreciate your involvement.
6. Take Care of Yourself First
It can be easy to feel devoted to helping someone get out of drug addiction, but you need to take care of yourself first. If you are not taking proper care of yourself, you won’t be able to help someone else.
That means getting good sleep, exercising, eating well, and even seeking mental health counseling or support groups for friends and family.
7. Keep Their Addiction in Perspective
Keeping things in perspective in the grand scheme of things will help you from feeling enveloped in their addiction. While their drug abuse may feel like the worst thing that could ever happen, you need to remind yourself that things will get better. Seeing this from you, the person you love may be able to find hope that things will get better for them, too.
8. Lead by Example
By creating a positive role model for your loved one, you can lead them to recovery through your example. Often, individuals who suffer from addiction are involved in social circles that include other people with the same substance use disorder and those who may encourage negative behaviors.
By remaining present in their life and serving as a healthy, happy, and drug-free example, they may be able to see that life doesn’t have to be this way – that there is another alternative.
9. Celebrate Progress
Recovery is a slow-moving process. There won’t be any overnight cures or fast-tracks to sobriety. Instead, there will be small, gradual changes. These changes can get overlooked when full recovery is the goal, so be sure to celebrate any progress made towards the end goal – no matter how small.
10. Get Professional Help
While it should ultimately be their decision to get help, you should encourage your loved one to seek out professional help. An addiction medicine provider may be able to treat their addiction and mental health, if appropriate. You may be met with excuses or total denial, so you should expect that possibility. Be persistent, but remain loving, and don’t make them feel ashamed or guilty for their addiction.
You can get help from drug abuse professionals directly at the Master Center for Addiction Medicine. Call us today to speak with an expert.
What to Avoid When Helping Someone With Drug Addiction
Just as certain things can help someone’s recovery, some things can hinder progress or trigger a relapse. When you are speaking with and supporting your loved one through addiction treatment, try to avoid the following:
- Emotional Appeals
These may increase feelings of guilt or shame
- Preaching or Lecturing
Do not try to moralize your loved one or speak from a pedestal about what they should do. Instead, offer encouragement and loving but firm suggestions.
- Making Excuses for their Behavior
It’s common for someone experiencing addiction to create excuses to justify their behavior. You mustn’t accept these excuses; addiction is a disease that requires medical attention.
- Enabling the Behavior
Hiding the problem from or giving your loved one money to help will only hurt your loved one more. Do not provide them with money for drugs and do not keep the actual situation from other involved family members and friends.
- Arguing When They are High
When someone is using drugs or alcohol, they won’t be thinking or speaking rationally. Don’t waste your time arguing during drug use, because your voice is much less likely to be heard and taken seriously.
- Feeling Guilty
Don’t feel guilty for any setbacks or lack of progress. It is not your addiction to face. However, you should prepare yourself to buckle in for the whole ride, no matter how long it takes.
Do you feel as if someone you love has a substance abuse problem or is dealing with an addiction? The best thing you can do for them is to support them, remain present, and encourage them to get professional addiction treatment.
It’s a delicate balance of not only encouragement and love but also boundaries and persistence. You should expect some resistance or push back, but it’s crucial not to give up on your loved one. Be consistent with your concerns and continue to ask them to seek help.
While supporting someone through substance abuse is by no means an easy task, it’s a crucial part of the process and can increase their ability to full recovery.
If you need support for your loved one, contact Master Center for Addiction Medicine and speak with a trained professional today.