If you have a friend or relative who lives with addiction, you may be wondering how you can help. It is not always easy to make the decision to help someone who has an addiction, but with your support, your loved one has a greater chance of overcoming the addiction...
While each situation is unique, there are some general guidelines that can help.
Focus on building trust
Expect changes to happen immediately
There are many reasons why helping someone who is important to you and who has an addiction can be difficult. Your beloved:
- Cant agree they have a problem
- Maybe you don’t want to change what they’re doing
- Can fear consequences (e.g. loss of job or entry into prison)
- You may be embarrassed and unwilling to discuss your addiction with you (or someone else).
- It can be uncomfortable to discuss your personal problems with a professional such as a doctor or counselor
- May engage in their addiction to avoid treatment for another problem (e.g. mental illness).
There is no quick and easy way to help an addict. Overcoming addiction requires great willpower and determination. If someone does not want to change their behavior, they are unlikely to be trying to convince them to get help.
What you can do is take steps to help your loved ones make changes over the long term. It is also important that you receive the support you need in dealing with a loved one who has an addiction.
Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) is an evidence-based method to help families get help for addicted loved ones.
CRAFT has replaced traditional interventions as the preferred method of providing addicts with the help they need, such as therapy...
build up trust
If an addict has already betrayed your trust, it can be difficult to regain and maintain it. However, building two-way trust is an important first step in helping addicts think about change...
Avoid These Trust Breakers:
- Nag, criticize, and lecture the addict.
- Shouting, naming and exaggerating (even when stressed out yourself).
- Engage yourself in addictive behavior, even in moderation (they will think you are a hypocrite).
Trust is easily undermined even if you try to help. There are a few things to keep in mind when considering speaking to your loved one about their addiction.
- Different perspectives. While you may just want to help your loved ones, they may think that you are trying to control them. These feelings can lead a person with addiction to become even more involved with their addiction.
- Stress can make things worse. Your loved one is likely using their addictive behavior (at least in part) to control stress. When the atmosphere between the two of you is stressful, they are going to want to make the addictive behavior more, not less.
- Trust goes both ways. Building trust is a two-way process. Confidence will not be established if you continue to put up with undesirable behavior. (If you currently don’t trust your loved one and don’t think it can be made, skip to step 2.)
- Understand the role of the consequences. People with addiction rarely change until the addictive behavior has consequences. While you may want to protect your loved one, resist the urge to protect someone with addiction from the consequences of their own actions.
The exception to considering consequences is for your loved one to do something that may be harmful to themselves or others – such as drinking and driving.
Get help for yourself first
Being in a relationship with someone who has an addiction is often stressful. It is important that you accept that what you are going through is difficult and seek support. You will also need to develop stress management strategies – an important step in helping your loved ones and yourself.
You might want to join support groups like Al-Anon or Naranon. Children and young people can receive support from Alateen.
You may be more than willing to let your loved one know how you feel about the problems their addiction caused and have a strong urge to make them change.
While it can be frustrating, remember that the decision to change is yours..A person with an addiction is far more likely to be open to change if they communicate honestly and without threat.
If you want them to change, you probably have to change yourself too, even if you are not an addict. If you show that you are ready to try, your loved one is more likely to try, too.
Identify treatment options
The process of addiction treatment depends on the type of treatment a person is receiving. If you are involved in the treatment of your loved one:
- Keep working on building trust. It can be helpful to read step 1 again before going for a consultation with your loved one.
- Be honest about your feelings. Tell your loved one how their addiction was for you and be honest about what should happen next.
- Don’t blame, criticize, or humiliate Your loved one in counseling. Just say how it was for you.
- Be prepared for the guilt. Don’t be surprised if your loved one expresses things that you did or said that add to their addiction. Keep calm and listen with an open heart and mind.
If your loved one chooses independent treatment:
- Respect your privacy in everyday life. Do not let friends, family, or others know about your loved one’s treatment.
- Respect your privacy in therapy. If they don’t want to talk about it, don’t ask them to tell you what happened.
- Exercise patience. There are many approaches to addiction treatment, but no change occurs overnight.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use or addiction problems, contact the National Drug Abuse and Mental Health Authority (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-662-4357 Information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
You can find more mental health resources in our National Helpline Database.