How to approach someone struggling with an addiction

How to approach someone struggling with an addiction

The first thing we have to make clear is that when we have a loved one or friend who seems to be struggling with an addiction, it is important that we understand we are not their therapist.

Your role as a family member or a friend is one of support and encouragement.

When your loved one accepts that they have a problem you can reassure them that there is help out there that will be effective.

If needs, be you can contact any help that is available for them, put them in contact with said help or go along with them as support.  

It is important that you remain approachable at all times.

Do not put yourself in a position of conflict by getting on their case and continuously nagging them into submission.

An approach of being willing to listen, learn and to try and understand how things are from the addict's perspective.  

You can do this by taking the time to learn about their addiction. Demonstrate to your loved one that you do not hate them, you hate the addiction.

In doing so you are separating them from the disease showing your loved one that you understand the disease does not define them as a person. 

Make sure that you set boundaries through loving detachment. In doing so you can be firm but fair which will help you to avoid becoming an enabler. 

Addicts are master of manipulation and so it is important that you set those boundaries and you stick to them. 

Do not allow yourself to get caught up in the chaos that follows addiction around like a tornado destroying everything in its wake.

When you can do this, you are not getting caught up in the addiction and are able to maintain your own levels of self-care.

This is important when supporting someone struggling with addiction as you will be no help if you are at your wit's end, stressed out and running low on energy yourself. 

DO NOT... 

Pass judgement, preach or fall into the trap of lecturing.

The chances are your loved one already feels ashamed and you will not be telling them anything that they are not aware of already.

Feelings of guilt fuel addiction and guilt trips, threats and constantly pointing out their failings will only feed the addiction. 

  • Don’t try to deal with them while they are under the influence. 
  • Do not argue, arguing with someone who has an addicted mind is a pointless battle.
  • Do not make excuses for their behaviour or try to cover up the actions caused by their addiction.
  • Protecting them from the consequences of their actions will only enable the continuation of their addicted behaviour.
  • Do not give an addict money no matter what they say it's for.

Once you open those flood gates you will be viewed as an easy target with a bottomless pit of funds. 

Addicts will try and play the blame game. Do not feel guilty or that their substance misuse is your responsibility. It is not. 

Choose the right battles... 

Picking and choosing the right time to talk to an addict and the right time to simply keep quiet can be a difficult process.

When they are intoxicated the conversation will be futile. When they are hungover the addict is often full of guilt, shame, anxiety or still under the influence and yes although they may seem open to conversation their mindset may not be. 

Find the right time and the right place, when you are both comfortable and feel in a safe place. Tell them you are concerned about their behaviour and ask them if they are willing to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Do not start blaming and throwing accusations and when they begin to speak LISTEN.  

Actively listen from a place of concern and compassion.

If they are not receptive do not force the issue, pack it away and save it for another day.

They may even have heard what you said and come back to you at a later point. 

If they are receptive ask if they are open to professional help or seeking peer support. 

If they are then great work with them and support them in getting the help they need.

If they are not then save it for another day or consider asking other family members to step in for an interventional conversation. 

Another idea is to contact someone who has been through the recovery process and ask the addict is they would be open to hearing their story, from them.

People struggling with addiction are often more receptive to others who have stood where they are now. 

Organisations such as ADFAM and families anonymous are there for family members of those struggling with addiction.

A quick google search will bring these up and other, perhaps local drug and alcohol services.

Feel free to drop us an email if you need any advice or assistance and if we can help we will or try and signpost you in the right direction.