If you know someone with a drug addiction, you may have seen firsthand how their life has spiraled out of control. It’s natural to want to help them, especially if they are someone you are close to. Unfortunately, the drug addict is rarely, if ever, the only impacted by this disease. Friends and family can become collateral damage due to financial, legal, behavioral, and emotional problems. Here are 5 tips for helping someone with a drug addiction.
1. Gather Information
Educate yourself about addictions, including the disease process of addiction
Research how it can affect the addict’s family and friends. You may even learn more about how their addiction impacts you.
You can find reliable information from multiple sources, such as:
- Your local library
- Trusted websites (.gov, .edu, and .org are usually the most reliable sources)
- SAMHSA.gov (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration)
- Support groups
- Treatment centers
- Mental health professionals
2. Get Help and Support
When you have a loved one with an addiction problem, it can create many challenges in your life. Several resources exist to give friends and family members of addicts the support and help they need.
For example, groups that can help you learn coping skills, provide additional resources, and help the addict, include:
- Al-Anon (focused on alcohol addiction)
- Nar-Anon (focused on drug addiction – prescription and illegal)
Counseling isn’t just for addicts— you may also want to seek individual counseling. The more mental health support can obtain, the better fit you will be to help your loved one with their disease. You can find counselors through an Employee Assistance Program, your health insurance, primary care physician, or even religious leaders/institutions.
In addition to support groups and counseling, you may need to seek specialty help. For example, suppose your loved one’s addiction has gotten you into legal hot water or dire financial straights. In that case, you may need legal and financial support and advice. Local mental health agencies, the United Way, or local churches may be able to help with this. If you need an attorney, you may be able to find one through your state’s bar association that does pro bono work.
3. Don’t Enable the Addiction
It’s often difficult for friends and family members when the disease of addiction takes hold. In the past, you may have supported the person’s addiction without even realizing it or how it would impact the situation.
As hard as it may be, don’t rescue the addict. Unfortunately, they need to experience the consequences of their disease firsthand. Human nature causes many people to be unable to change until they are forced. You must not financially support the addict or their addiction. By purchasing groceries, providing financial assistance to pay court fines, legal fees, or attorneys, or paying rent to help someone out, you are only prolonging the disease as it allows the addict to mostly avoid the natural consequences of their actions.
4. Set Realistic Expectations
As tempting as it might be, don’t lecture the addict. Most of the time, they are unable to really listen and hear what you are saying. Instead, keep holding them accountable to expectations and offer to help direct them to the treatment if they choose to seek it.
However, don’t expect addicts to keep promises. Realistically, they aren’t able to do so while they are in their disease process. It’s best not to react to them with anger or pity as it only keeps you in the process with the addict.
5. Take Care of Yourself
Last but not least, take care of yourself. When a friend or family member has a drug addiction, it can be physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting. It may sound counterintuitive, but focusing on your own life is the most crucial step you can take in helping a loved one.
When you take care of yourself, you will be better prepared to help them when they are ready to seek the help they need. If you don’t take care of yourself, it will increase your stress and possibly build resentment against them. Taking care of oneself looks different for everyone, but it usually includes one or more of the following:
- Eating healthy
- Getting enough rest/sleep
- Participating in hobbies or learning a new skill
Above all, remember that you aren’t alone. Countless Americans deal with friends and family members who have an addiction every day. Getting the help and support you need is paramount in helping your loved one overcome their addiction.