Drug and alcohol addiction is an insidious disease that affects many more lives than that of the addict. Friends and family members of the addict suffer right alongside them, and many feel powerless to help. Frustration and anger are common feelings amongst the loved ones of addicts, and these feeling can often boil over, creating even more stress and anxiety.
Addiction comes in many forms, but whether it’s drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, sex or some combination thereof, there are ways that family members can help. While it’s ultimately up to the individual to recognize their problem and become willing to seek treatment, family members can do many things to help the addict on their journey to recovery.
If you have a close friend or family member who suffers from addiction, these are some of the ways that you can help.
Communicate Without Judgment
Deep down, many addicts are painfully aware of their problem, but shame and helplessness can prevent them from discussing it with the ones they love. As a friend or family member it’s important to be able to initiate a conversation without a judgmental attitude or an angry tone. You have every right to feel hurt and angry by the behavior of your loved one, but expressing those feelings early on could stifle the desire of the addict to get the help they deserve.
Instead, gently remind the addict that their behavior has affected their life in a negative way, and that you miss the person they once were.
Be Supportive but Don’t Enable
Despite your best efforts, you may be unintentionally enabling the addict and allowing them to continue their behavior without consequences. Whether you’re giving them money, making excuses for their absence from work or missed appointments, or allowing them to maintain their place in the home without contributing, you’re essentially telling them that their actions have no ramifications.
Let them know that you’re absolutely willing to help if they become serious about battling their addiction, but refuse to provide support, financial or otherwise. By doing so you send a clear message that they now need to be responsible for their actions with no outside help. This alone can make the addict rethink their position and spark a desire for change.
When It’s Time to Get Help
Help for the addict can come in many different forms. Twelve step programs, one-on-one counseling, and residential treatment scenarios are all options that can work. Deciding which of these plans is right for your loved one can be tricky, and in this case it may be best to talk to an expert.
If the addict has come to the point where they’ve admitted their problem and are willing to be an active participant in their recovery, it’s ideal to allow them to participate in the treatment choice. However if the addict is still unwilling to come to terms with their disease, other more aggressive choices may be needed.
Interventions have become more popular and more widely known thanks in part to television programs that document the process. While it may seem like intervention is harsh, in many ways, it is the ideal way to confront the addict and give them the opportunity to hear from their friends and family just how badly their addiction affects others. However, this type of situation is often heated and chaotic, as the addict feels duped or attacked, and they often react with anger.
Many experts agree that an intervention, with its “go to treatment now” approach is a reliable way to confront the addict, especially as friends and family members also give their own ultimatums to the addict. These typically include cutting off all contact and support if the addict refuses the treatment. Of course, the addict must place high value on the potential loss of friends and family, and fortunately, many of them do.
Addiction ravages more than just the addict; friends and family are left reeling, hurt, and confused by the behavior and the refusal on the part of the addict to accept treatment. Remain strong and focused, establish and stick to your bottom line, and assure the addict that while you love them very much, you can no longer accept or tolerate the behavior. It is also essential to practice self care and take personal accountability for your actions to ensure that your happiness is not dependent on whether the addict recovers or not.
Lastly, make sure they know that you’ll do whatever is in your power to support them through their treatment and recovery, simply because they matter.