How To Help Someone With An Addiction: Simple Steps to Take


The challenge with addiction is that the disease doesn’t impact only the addict. Friends and family may have difficulties coping with the addict’s legal problems, financial problems, and uncouth behavior. They may also face numerous challenges in their daily struggles to support the victim.

Are you struggling to help a friend or family member with an addiction? Well, you aren’t alone in this. Many people are on the lookout for practical ways to help their loved ones with various forms of addictions.

Luckily, it’s no longer impossible to salvage your loved ones from the chains of addictions. We’ll walk you through simple steps you can take to address the problem. But first, you’d need to understand the definition of an addiction.

Can You Help Someone With an Addiction?

Yes, you can help someone with an addiction. When your loved one shows signs of addiction to drugs, alcohol, or other substances, it might be hard to know what to tell or do to them. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t help them with their substance abuse disorder.

The first step towards helping an addicted friend is to understand their type of addiction. The common types of addiction include psychological, physical, and psycho-physical addictions. In psychological addiction, the victim feels emotionally awful when they stop using the drug. Their mind generally craves the feeling that the substance gives.

The body becomes highly dependent on the substance or drug in physical addiction. The body needs more and more of it to achieve the same effect. Often, the victim begins to develop withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug.

When deciding to speak to the addict, try to know the amount of drug or substance abuse. Think about how it’s affecting your loved one as well as others. As you plan to talk to your addicted friend about it, be prepared for varied reactions from sadness to anger. Be careful not to speak to them when they’re high or drunk.

Core Concepts To Understand When Helping Someone With an Addiction

Addiction is a complex illness that affects an individual socially, psychologically, and physically. Different addiction concepts support different treatment approaches. Thinking of addiction as a choice implies that its treatment should focus more on behavioral changes. Conversely, considering it a disease means a medical treatment might be effective.

Consider the following concepts when handling your loved one’s addiction:

Their Addiction Is Theirs and Theirs Alone

Watching your loved one struggle with addiction is difficult. You probably wish you could do everything in your power to save them. Although you may think you’re helping them, you may unknowingly enable them to further their addiction.

Some of these enablers might include doing household chores for them, drinking alcohol around or with them, covering for their financial gaps, or giving constant excuses for their lateness or absenteeism.

Although you care much about them and would always wish to save their face, you must never forget that their addiction is theirs alone. You must not try to cover for their shortcomings.

You Can’t and Shouldn’t Fix Their Problems for Them

Trying to fix your addicted friend’s problems for them is counterproductive. You must set boundaries by letting them know what you need and communicating your most likely reaction if they behave in a particular manner. You should neither create walls nor try to control their behavior.

Whereas it may seem a little difficult to set boundaries for your addicted loved ones, a healthy cutline would help them stay accountable for their actions. This way, they’ll understand that their behaviors and choices are theirs alone. As a result, you’ll stay safe while still being around in their life.

Your Role Is To Support and Help

Drug and substance abuse and an eventual addiction can weaken communication, erode trust, and damage family dynamics. You’ll often endure painful emotions as you watch your loved one battle with substance use disorder.

Although you may feel at a loss as you watch them caught in the grips of substance abuse, you have a significant role to play: helping them achieve and maintain sobriety. You can also play an essential role in their treatment process.

You develop into a dysfunctional system when impacted by substance abuse. The roles in this dysfunctional system have been named many things, including:

  • The enabler/rescuer/caregiver
  • The scapegoat
  • The lost child
  • The Mascot

You can assume healthy behaviors and roles to support and encourage recovery. For instance, you may become a firm but supportive caregiver, encouraging the addict to act positively and thoughtfully.

Healthy behavior and role include holding the patient responsible for their actions and rewarding them for their positive choices. You can attend support groups for families of addicts or with your loved ones.

Don’t Forget About Yourself

You should never forget about yourself when caring for or aiding an addicted person. Remember, having challenges with substance abuse is a chronic illness. It affects both the addict and the people close to them. Avoid placing the needs of your loved one above your own, as it may result in struggles with anxiety and depression, increased illness, or lack of self-care.

To become better equipped to help your loved one deal with addiction, you must first take good care of your mental, emotional, and physical needs. You can always seek community and care from the numerous available addiction-related support groups to help you navigate the challenging role.

Best Ways To Help Someone With an Addiction

When working with a patient, you should first evaluate to determine the degree of their addiction. You should also assure them that it is possible to recover from the habit. You can then apply the following strategies to create a supportive and positive environment to enable them to succeed and become more resilient in the face of setbacks.

Refer Them to Outside Support Groups

There are numerous outside resources for those recovering from addictions. Combining such support groups and counseling treatment can be of great significance. Be sure to refer your patient to recovery programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous, as these are another layer of outside support.

When your loved one attends such programs, they can listen to stories from patients with similar backgrounds. Their counterparts also get to share their wisdom and struggles in such a non-judgmental environment hence helping your loved one to challenge themselves.

Help the Addict Develop a Relapse Prevention Plan

Drug and substance addiction has a chronic nature. It implies that a considerable percentage of patients will relapse at some point while recovering. However, you shouldn’t take a relapse to mean a failure in treatment. It’s an indicator that there’s a need to adjust the treatment plan.

A patient undergoing treatment should be well-equipped to counter any form of relapse. Relapse prevention ought to start early in the recovery process. Try and tailor plans to the needs of your patient. The essential elements of the plan include the following:

  • Specific lifestyle changes that a patient can actualize to prioritize their well-being
  • Emergency relapse plans
  • A detailed list of counselors and friends that can form a support network
  • Warning signs and guidelines on how best the patient can manage them
  • Detailed accounts of the patient’s encounter with drug or substance abuse coupled with previous lapses

Encourage Patient Recovery

Recovery from an addiction is a daunting task. Most addicts with drug or alcohol dependency may not easily recognize their abuse patterns. They may also develop ambivalent feelings against seeking medication. You should deploy various approaches to enhance and elicit your patient’s motivation and identify a style that meets their needs.

You can adapt your patient’s change style to help rejuvenate their motivation throughout various recovery stages. Your roles go far beyond offering advice, teaching, and talking to the patient. You’re responsible for assisting the patient in identifying their problematic behavior. You should then guide them toward recovery and challenge them to act and change their unpleasant behaviors.

Have Realistic Expectations

Avoid lecturing or preaching to the addict. They’re often unable to hear what you’re saying. Please provide them with help to direct them to the required treatment and always hold them accountable to various expectations.

An addict may not keep any promise during their disease process. Also, avoid reacting to their behaviors or actions with anger or pity. Once you realize that your loved one is ready to get help, don’t hesitate to initiate a change program that follows the correct stages of change in addiction.

Avoid Enabling

Enabling behavior may look more like helping, but in a real sense, it isn’t. Enabling means you’re doing things for an addict that they’d do for themselves when sober. Understanding what enablement entails would help you develop ways to stop it.

While you’d want to support and help your addicted loved one because that’s what friends and family members ought to do, your well-meaning support and love might become detrimental if they’re struggling with an addiction. For instance, offering them financial aid will unknowingly boost their purchasing power, enabling them to acquire more substances or drugs.

When your loved one is hungover, yet you decide to save their face by telling people they’re sick, you’re only helping them cover up for their bad behavior. This way, they can easily take advantage of the situation and protection to advance their misbehavior.

If your loved one demonstrates uncouth behavior and is jailed, you might want to bail them out as a show of great love and concern toward them. However, this sympathy might be counterproductive as they’ll not fully experience the consequences of their misdeeds.

What To Say to Someone Who Has an Addiction

It’s increasingly hard to stay around your addicted loved one when you probably know nothing to tell them. The situation is tricky and daunting whether or not your loved one recognizes their problem.

When you intend to talk to your addicted loved one, you must first educate yourself about the correct approaches. You should then take advantage of a time when you’re both clear-minded to converse. Take action alongside your loved one, set and enforce boundaries, give them space to respond, and always stay clear and upfront in your conversation.

Here are a few words you could say to someone with an addiction:

  • I’d want you to feel your best, so I’m willing to help you research therapists or treatment centers if you’d like
  • I respect that you aren’t drinking, and I’m immensely proud of you for taking good care of yourself
  • I would appreciate it if we converse only when both of us are sober because I feel disrespected when we talk while you’re drunk or high
  • You’re still my friend, and I’ll always care for you no matter the effort it takes
  • I’m sorry you’re struggling with your addiction, and I’m here to support you where I can

What Not To Say to Someone Who Has an Addiction

People in recovery from substance or drug addiction are pretty often highly emotional. They tend to doubt their ability to fully recover and avoid the habits. Therefore, there are some unhelpful things that friends and family shouldn’t tell them.

Some words might even hurt their recovery as they navigate emotional and physical barriers to regaining health.

Below are some words you should avoid uttering to someone with an addiction:

  • I’m ashamed of you
  • If you don’t change, I’m done with you
  • Why can’t you stop using drugs; you’re being too selfish
  • You’ll never change
  • I know what you’re going through
  • You should just quit cold turkey; it worked for someone
  • Come on; you can have one drink; it’s fine
  • You’re so annoying when drunk; I can never talk with you in such a state
  • I can’t believe you’re a junkie; when will you get clean?

What To Expect When Someone Gets Help for an Addiction

Recovery is an ongoing and gradual process. As a person with addiction gets help, there tend to be a lot of expectations from them. Examples of such expectations include:

  • Life would be boring to them after they stop abusing drugs and substances
  • Their recovery would look similar to everyone else’s
  • They’d immediately gain their family’s trust
  • After they complete their treatment, their addiction will be fully cured

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some FAQs about helping someone with an addiction.

Do addicts know they’re hurting you?

The answer is yes and no. At the initial stages of illness, an addict understands they’re causing pain to their family. However, nothing else seems to matter to them once they cross that line. They become mentally unsound and so do not hurt on purpose.

How do you know if you’re addicted to somebody?

An addictive relationship has similar characteristics as other forms of addiction. The experience is relatively unstable as you begin losing sight of who you are and no longer care about yourself, all in favor of another person.

Some indications of addiction to someone include being anxious that your partner doesn’t love you; your relationship puts you on top of the world one day and low the next day, and you have a nervous feeling inside at all times.

Wrapping Up

An addiction, being a brain disorder, is just as life-threatening as emphysema, diabetes, or heart disease. Its symptoms can be both physical and psychological. The victim may have periods of relapse and recovery.

You can try helping the addict understand the need to seek medical attention. To help your loved one recover from addiction, refer them to outside support groups, help them develop a relapse prevention plan, and avoid enabling them.


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