The Do’s and Don’ts of Helping Someone With Addiction
We’ve seen them in the news, we see them in the newspaper, even in public service posters. Addicts are everywhere and the most prominent ones are those who commit crimes, (accidental or not) due to its effect or influence. This is one of the reasons why people view addicts as the scum of society, that they don’t deserve sympathy. This is wrong. There are addicts everywhere and some of them are high functioning. Regardless, they are suffering, one way or another and they need help.
If you have a loved one or a good friend that’s an addict, how do you help them? How can you contribute to their recovery?
How NOT to Help an Addict
Before learning how and what it would take to help an addict, you must know the things you should avoid doing. There are people who do these things out of compassion and positive advocacy, but what they don’t know is that it’s worsening the condition. Addiction is a mental disease where the brain has rewired a person’s perceptions and judgments. Reasoning may work on them, but only on a limited scale
You CAN’T Make Them Quit
This is all about control. Addicts have no control over themselves, therefore, you should control them. This is the wrong perspective. People often control them by cutting their resources, hiding their substances and telling them to quit. This will very likely cause the addict to find an interruptible source, find a place where they can’t be interrupted, and find a way to stop the interruptions they can’t avoid. This causes the addict to isolate him or herself from other people.
Surrender on the idea of trying to control them so they can realize that they have no control.
You CAN’T Do the Recovery For Them
Once again, this is about control. If the addict already has a program, they have to do it themselves, unless you are responsible for certain tasks. If your task is to give controlled dosages of the substance to help them taper, then that’s what you should only do.
Often, people would constantly babysit their loved ones through recover. Concerned parents would stay by them, keep constant communications and remind them of what needs to be done. This may prove effective in practice, but you may end up robbing them of their sense of control. The addict must establish their sense of control and there’s no substitute for that. People who recover due to being “babysat” have little resistance against relapse.
In some cases, addicts could feel shame about relapsing and become more elusive of their addiction. They may assume that you will impose harder control and opposition.
You CAN’T Enable Them
Enabling is not the same as promoting. An example of promoting is when a group of friends invites you to go drinking and pass you the bottles. They are providers and ushers, but it ends there.
Enablers are people who give people a reason or justification to continue their addiction. They are also people who accept an addict’s behaviors that violate their boundaries. When helping an addict, your words must matter, so when boundaries are broken, you should react accordingly. It may cause the addict to get angry, but it adds worth to your words, which will help in the long run.
How to Help An Addict
Now that you understand that you cannot control an addict and you must let the addict establish control, here are what you must do when trying to help an addict.
Learn Everything You Can About Addiction
Try to understand the drivers that lead to addiction. Addiction is not just between the addict and the substance. There are a lot of factors that trigger and maintain the addiction, most of them outside of the person’s control.
You should learn what addicts go through during recovery. One perspective that may help is if you compare it to the things you are addicted to, like coffee, exercise, or a tv show. Why do you want it? What happens when you don’t get it? What happens when you don’t get it for a few days?
If you have an answer, magnify that five or ten times. Addiction to mind-altering substances can often push people into desperation.
Finally, learn about the process of rehabilitation or whichever program the addict will go through. Caring for an addict after successful rehabilitation relies on your understanding of what addiction is and what your role will be.
Take Care of Your Health
You can’t nurse someone back to health if you’re not healthy yourself. You’ll act as a role model for the addict. By making healthy decisions, you provide benefits to yourself and let the addict realize their own unhealthy habits.
Addiction causes a lot of trouble, stress, and grief to affected families. A person can easily be worn down just by being with an addict, so taking care of one’s self is imperative.
Words have power. Let the addict talk about their problem, allow them to express why they need to do what they do. Often, just letting them talk allows them to foster trust and soon enough, open the dialogue to let you help them. Addicts rarely ask for help unless they realize that they do need it and they have someone that won’t judge them.
One of the easiest ways to get an addict to clam up is through shame. Feeling shame would make the addict want to both isolate him or herself from the world, and deny the fact that they are addicted. If an addict is ashamed to talk about his or her addiction, it would be difficult for them to start their recovery.
How to Help Your Addicted Children
Though the advice above is suited to everyone, there are specific approaches for specific people. In this instance, children and teenagers. Addiction grips us all, even reaching the young people. They are flexible, open to suggestions and eager to learn new things, so how to do approach them?
Reinforce Positive Behavior and Activities
In a way, it’s a passive way to have them quit. The point is to make them prefer doing positive things over negative ones. When you put too much focus on the mistakes, you may undermine their confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. If they don’t feel confident, they may cower from the challenges of recovery and give in deeper into the addiction.
Create Clear Guidelines and Stick With Them
Even if it results in harsh (non-harmful) punishment. This is different from rules. Boundaries are to allow them to try or partake to a certain level, such as going home before midnight. When these boundaries are crossed, you must not fail to enforce them. They may get angry at you, but at some point, they will learn to respect your word.
It’s also important to make them fully understand why you need to set the boundaries. Questioning the reasons behind boundaries and rules are the seeds of rebellion. The reasons must also be sensible and realistic.
Listen to Them
It’s often easy to dismiss what they are saying, often with the lines “I’ve been there before,” followed by an advice, then followed by dismissing the topic. This is toxic to them, disabling their abilities to express themselves, which is the key element in letting them talk. If they have an addiction, don’t control them and let them talk about it. At least, you will find the key reason and if you can change it for the better, then you might kill the root of their addiction.
How to Help Your Spouse Recover From Addiction
The same advice applies, but there are certain dynamics between spouses that vastly differ from friends and good companions. These dynamics could make or break the recovery process so it’s important to tread with care.
Don’t Judge Too Harshly
Let there be judgment, but only give what’s due. Express what you don’t like in a short but meaningful and calm way. Often, judgment is accompanied by a litany of previous mistakes in order to create guilt. Guilt should be the first thing the addict feels in the path of recovery, but it should never be constant. Shame follows guilt and shame can severely slow an addict’s recovery. If a behavior is repeated, simply tell them that it is not the first time that this happened, then focus on helping them figure out what to do next.
Do Not Engage Them While They Are Under The Influence
Being under the influence is their way of escape or release. By engaging them while they are “down-under” you’ll eventually cause hostility in that mode and they may react by intensifying their condition or staying away from you. An addict will always stay away from people who oppose them or antagonize them. If they cannot stay away, they will attempt to stop it through any other means.
Helping an addict is no easy feat. Thankfully, it is not as challenging as what the addict will go through, but nonetheless, it is something we all should take seriously. An addict’s behavior can be toxic to the people around them, so the best way to help an addict is to first, help yourself, then help them go through the darkness until they find their way.
On This Page
- 1 Help Is Only A Phone Call Away
- 2 How NOT to Help an Addict
- 3 How to Help An Addict
- 4 How to Help Your Addicted Children
- 5 How to Help Your Spouse Recover From Addiction
- 6 Don't Wait Help Is Only A Phone Call Away
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