How to Support a Loved One Struggling with Addiction
Supporting a friend or loved one through addiction and recovery can be challenging, both mentally and emotionally. Here are a few important suggestions on how to support a loved one struggling with addiction without subjecting yourself to more emotional trauma.
Understand the Disease of Addiction
Regardless of the addiction, many of the signs and symptoms are similar. People with addictions often lose interest in things they once loved and drastically change their behaviors. Even after an individual is in recovery, the process of returning to their former selves can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s important that you’re patient, but you should not dismiss bad behavior. Tough love is the most important rule of helping someone, but first you must understand the disease and familiarize yourself with the recovery process.
It’s also good to know the symptoms of addiction:
- Memory and cognition problems
- Problems with school work or on the job
- Avoiding social events unless alcohol or drugs are available
- Suspicions of theft, missing valuables
- Out of control emotions
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Poor hygiene
It’s also important to remember that one can be addicted to a myriad of things, including sex, gambling and shopping. An addiction is defined as a dependency on something that affects one’s life or body negatively.
Vocally Offer Support
Convincing a friend who is struggling with addiction to seek help can be difficult, and you must understand that addicts often fail several times before they ultimately overcome an addiction. Be patient, but don’t be a doormat. Set boundaries and stick to them, or your life could quickly turn chaotic.
Once in recovery, many people are ashamed and feel horrible about the way they’ve treated loved ones. They are determined to take this path alone, but they are more likely to succeed with the support of their friends and family. So, take time to sit down and discuss how you can assist in the recovery process.
Give them a shoulder to cry on and someone to lean on during rough times. This doesn’t necessarily need to involve monetary support or a change in your lifestyle. Visit them on weekends if they’re allowed visitors. Offer to keep your phone on 24 hours a day in case they need to talk. Offer to pick them up from work if they’ve lost their license. Invite them to a weekly family dinner at your house, especially if their family has abandoned them during their time of need. Be present in their life. Remind them of their progress when things get difficult. It’s often difficult for addicts to see the light at the end of the tunnel while in recovery.
Find out when and where the addict needs assistance and step up. Having support during this trying time will make a world of difference. If an addict feels alone and helpless, it’s easy for them to return to their addiction.
Know Your Place
Although you may be the voice of reason, you should avoid lecturing an addict, especially if you have never been in the person’s shoes. Do not use guilt as a tactic to make them see reason.
At the same time, you should not take any ownership in their addiction. Do not feel guilty for what they’ve done to themselves or to others.
If your loved one needs money, it’s wise to pay for things directly rather than hand them cash. Fill their car with gas or buy them some groceries in person. If they continually have money problems, they may be falling back into their bad habits. Help them find a personal finance coach or help them set up a budget. If the problems continue, you should stop offering to help them financially.
When you’re trying to support a loved one struggling with addiction, the most important thing to do is listen. Understand that overcoming addiction is not easy. Be helpful, but avoid being overly sympathetic. Recovery is a process that requires an addict to own up to their issues and face their problems. Your job as a friend or family member is to stand behind the addict, not do the hard work for them.