If you have a close friend or family member who is an addict, you know how tough it can sometimes be to know how to act around them. One minute they’re angry at you for suggesting that anything is wrong, and the next they’re crying and pleading for your forgiveness, promising that things will change.
Obviously, this is just one of countless scenarios that can play out with addicts and the people closest to them, but it raises a lot of questions about how you should respond to each kind of situation. Is it best to support addicts no matter what? Or should you cut them off at the first sign of trouble as a kind of “tough love,” so that they’ll try to get better?The answer, of course, is somewhere in-between and depends on each specific situation, and lots of people make mistakes. It’s still possible to make things go more smoothly if a similar situation affects you by learning some tips and actions to stray away from.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Supporting Addicts
More than anything else, the key in learning how to show support for your addict and their recovery is the same thing that you would do if you discovered they had any other serious disease like diabetes, cancer, or HIV – learn as much as you can about their specific problem (e.g. how their drug of choice affects them) and don’t panic or judge.Do…
Get your own help
Dealing with someone struggling with addiction is emotionally draining and stressful. Before you dive in and find yourself drowning, find some kind of outlet or support group for yourself. Two of the best support groups out there for family and friends of addicts are Al-Anon and Nar-Anon.
Telling an addict that they’re a disgrace and a horrible human being isn’t likely to make them straighten out their life. In fact, this could reinforce their addictive habits by retreating into their substance of choice to help them feel better emotionally. Instead, appeal to their own sense of wellbeing and do what you can to show that you genuinely want to help make their life better because you care.
Stray away from making promises and going back on your word like you’ll never give them money again, then pull out a $20 the next time they ask. And avoid accusing someone of having a drinking problem and tell them to get help, then go out to a bar with them later on. In order to get better, addicts need consistency as much as they need a sober space. (About.com)
Addicts need to be reminded that they’re strong enough to fight through temptation, and that doing so may sometimes require help. Just like you’re going to Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, do what you can to encourage them to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings, or meet with an individual counselor or advisor or seek help at a comprehensive treatment program.
Protect them from consequences
Most addicts won’t alter their behavior until something bad happens because they have no incentive to do so. It might hurt to let them fail a class, lose their job, or get thrown in jail, but if you step in to keep them from getting in trouble, it may encourage them to continue.
Let them abuse you
When they are deep in the throes of their addiction, many addicts will lie, cheat, steal, yell, and even physically harm those closest to them. This is not okay. The second your addict causes you harm, let them know their behavior isn’t acceptable. If it continues, separate yourself until they change their ways. They need to trust you, but you need to be able to trust them, too.
Dictate their treatment
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t encourage them to seek treatment, but don’t try to force them into one kind of treatment over another. Help them make a decision together or encourage them to find a program that’s right for them. What works well for one person may not work for another, and addicts may also view your behavior as an attempt to control them.
Continue using yourself
Even if you don’t consider yourself an addict, continuing to drink or use drugs while you encourage your addict to quit will be seen as the height of hypocrisy. If you really want to help them, give up your own bad habits if you face them too.Back to Resources
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