How to Help a Friend With an Addiction Problem

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Today there are hundreds of thousand of people suffering from some sort of drug addiction. Whether it is addiction to prescription medications or to street drugs such as cocaine and heroin, almost all of us know someone who is battling some form of drug dependency. This can be absolutely heartbreaking, especially if it is happening to someone who is important to us such as a good friend. Many times we are left feeling virtually powerless as we watch our friend’s life spiral downward. While there is nothing we can do to stop an addict who doesn’t want to help themselves, there are some key points to keep in mind when dealing with this devastating and life threatening disease.

Encourage Your Friend to Seek Professional Help

The most obvious course of action, when dealing with a person who is suffering from drug addiction, is to try reasoning with him/her. Explain that you care about him/her and that you want to see him/her get help for his/her problem. Of course, most of the time this will not be enough but it is a good first step. By letting your friend know that you are there for him/her and that you will be there through everything as long as he/she takes a step to get help, you are doing what is called planting a seed. Sometimes it takes years for that seed to blossom and a lot of the time it never does but one thing is for sure, confronting your friend is a very good start. You may even come to the conversation armed with some very specific plans, such as the numbers and addresses of some treatment centers that your friend may contact.

Do Not Enable Your Friend

A common mistake made by people who have a loved one who is suffering from addiction is that they enable that person to continue doing what they are doing. Enabling occurs when a good friend or family member bails the addict out, either financially or by covering for him/her at work or with a significant other. An addict must hit rock bottom in order to recognize there is a problem. If friends and family never allow that process to come to fruition, the addict will continue to use. Every addict has a different journey as well as a different bottom and by saving the addict time and time again, you are not helping the addict get to the place he/she needs to be to develop the desire to get clean. It is hard to turn your back on someone you love but in this case it may become necessary. Be strong and remember that you are doing what you have to do, no matter how difficult it may be.

Use Tough Love

Part of loving someone who is destroying themselves is being tough on them. The more emotionally and physically available you make yourself to the addict; the more that person will continue to drain you and use you for his/her own purposes. Unfortunately, addiction is a disease which causes people to become very selfish as well as destructive, not only to themselves but to everyone around them. You may need to close your home and your heart to your friend for awhile. This isn’t a terrible thing to do; in fact you may be saving your friend’s life. If your friend knows you mean business and that you will have nothing further to do with him/her until he/she receives help, it may just prompt him/her to action faster. Then again it may not. Sadly, many addicts have to learn the hard way. The less people who will tolerate your friend’s addiction, the better your friends chances of beating addiction. If your friend asks you for money or a place to stay, say no. It might be the hardest thing you will ever have to do but it is a necessary evil.

Call an Intervention

If your friend is not swayed by you and your methods of getting him/her to wake up, it may be time to call in the troops, so to speak. Most of the time addicts have more than one person who has been affected by their addiction. Often, those people seem as if they are numb to the situation and many times they won’t even help. However, if there are other friends and family members who share your concern, you may want to get everyone together in an effort to rescue your friend from him/herself. Interventions are not easy and many times the addict may even become violent. Try to remember that this monster you are dealing with is not the person you love but a symptom of that person’s disease. Your friend is in there somewhere just wishing someone would save him/her. Even if the first intervention doesn’t seem like a success, don’t give up. Again, it is about planting seeds and letting the addict know he/she is loved unconditionally.

Support Your Friend Through Therapy

If the day comes when your friend does decide to seek help, be as supportive as possible. Don’t throw things in his/her face that might have happened during his/her addiction. Many people carry a lot of anger toward loved ones who have hurt them, either by stealing from them, physically assaulting them or a variety of other undesirable behaviors. Know that your friend is hurting too and probably quite ashamed of the things he/she has done. Your friend is going to need a lot of love and patience from you. Be as supportive as you can and if you cannot show up out of love; don’t show up at all until you can. Your friend will need to be surrounded by people who have faith in him/her and his/her ability to recover from addiction and start over.

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Gary Wickman

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