How to Help an Addict: Advice for Friends and Loved Ones
People who struggle with addiction are likely to struggle with physical problems and health issues. Their suffering is likely to spill over to their loved ones, including family members and friends. People with drugs or alcohol addiction are six times more likely to attempt suicide.
People with addiction need help from family and friends. Unfortunately, many of them are shunned and left to their own devices. This probably explains why most of them consider taking their lives.
There are higher chances of recovery if an addicted is accorded support. Each situation is unique and may require greater determination and input than others.
These guidelines can help you know how to help an addict.
Identifying the Symptoms of Drug Addiction
It all begins by identifying the symptoms that a person having an addiction might display. Many symptoms may be internal to the individual. Here are some of those that might be outwardly visible:
- Appearances of intoxication more often than not
- Problems with memory and recognition
- Irregular sleeping hours, excessive sleep, appearing tired
- Being lethargic
- Inability to keep a job or perform at school
- Petty theft
- Lashing out when asked about drug use or addiction
- Withdrawal symptoms when they have not used the drug for long
- Poor hygiene practices and neglected appearance
Their behavior differs depending on whether they are sober or intoxicated. For example, they are likely to say or do hurtful things when intoxicated. When sober, they show a lot of love and care to those around them.
The fluctuations in behavior can create worry and fear in the loved ones.
How to Help an Addict
Sometimes, when the loved ones to an addict show care, it creates codependency. Codependency refers to the involuntary fostering of the addiction. It happens as a result of trying to help the addict out of the habit.
In the long-term, codependency becomes damaging because the addict takes no responsibility for their recovery. Here is how to help an addict while trying to reduce codependency.
1. Expect Difficulties
Assisting a person with an addiction can prove difficult. To begin with, they may not agree that they have an addiction problem. They also may not want to do away with the drugs or change what they do.
The addiction might not be the real problem. It could be a cover up for a bigger issue that they are unable to overcome. For example, the addict could be in debt, and their addiction to alcohol could be an escape route.
Helping a person with an addiction is not easy. The problem can get worse if they do not want to talk about it. Trying to persuade them to get help might not work.
However, you can take some steps to help them over the long term.
2. Establish Trust
It’s not easy to acquire the trust of a person who does not want to be helped. You should strive to establish trust both ways as a first step towards helping them. Trust is hard to gain but very easy to destroy.
As such, avoid:
- Nagging, lecturing, or criticizing your patient
- Name calling, yelling or exaggerating issues
- Engaging in the same addictions as the patient
Remember that your best intentions may be interpreted as controlling. In reaction, they might get deeper into the addictive behavior. If the atmosphere between you two is stressful, they may indulge in the addiction more.
For your sanity, remember that people with addictions have to take responsibility for their actions. Do not try too hard to protect them from the consequences that you end up hurt.
3. Get Help for Yourself
Taking care of a person with an addiction can be stressful. Accepting that you’re stressed and need help is crucial. Lack of personal care can lead to a breakdown.
Managing the stress that comes along makes you better for yourself and your patient. Getting help from significant others can go a long way toward helping you cope.
4. Communication is Essential
As you talk to your loved one about their addiction, let them know how it affects you. Resist the temptation to be judgmental or to threaten them if they do not change. They’ll most likely consider a change if you communicate honestly and in a way that spells love to them.
Remember that the decision to change is ultimately theirs.
5. The Treatment Process
You’re probably wondering how to help an addict in the actual treatment process. The process differs from case to case, and if you’re involved:
- Continue establishing trust
- Be open about your feelings, expectations, and the effects of the addiction
- Avoid humiliating the patient during a counseling session
- Expect them to say how you contribute to the addiction
- Be willing to change too even though you’re not the one with an addiction
If you’re not involved in the treatment process:
- Respect their privacy of the sessions
- Do not probe for information
- Do not let friends and family know about the treatment
- Remember that change does not happen overnight
In most cases, the treatment center will advise you on how to help your loved one depending on the treatment they’re undergoing.
Where to Get Help
Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for a referral to professional help. You can reach them on their toll-free line that is open all round the clock. They will guide you on how to help an addict, and their referral services are free of charge.
If you’re in San Diego, CA, you can reach out to Help Care Treatment Services. We offer drug rehab, alcohol rehab, and different treatment programs.
How to Help an Addict – Final Thoughts
Taking care of a loved one with an addiction can take a toll on you. It’s easy to get angry at them and even give up on their recovery. People who do not get support with their addictions may consider taking their lives.
Keep in mind that it will not be a smooth process. Your communication lines with the addict should remain open; avoid being judgmental or harsh. You also need to draw a line between healthy and unhealthy care towards the addict.
If it’s too much for you, you can seek help from professional services like Help Care Treatment Services. They will direct you to the right place where to get help for your patient. It’s easier to know how to help an addict when you have a support system.
If you have a loved one who is struggling with an addiction, Help Care Treatment Services is here to help them. Just call us at 760-421-5021 to talk.