How to Help a Loved One With Addiction

If you love someone who is struggling with addiction, you may feel helpless, scared, confused, and unsure how to help them. Though these are common feelings when you’re dealing with a loved one who has a substance use disorder, each person’s situation is different. Addiction is a complex disease with far-reaching consequences, including physical, mental, social, financial, environmental, and behavioral issues, and can impact the entire family, not just the person who is misusing drugs or alcohol.

We want to equip you with the tools you will need to help a loved one who is struggling with addiction. Whether you have an existing friend or family member who is an addict or not, it is likely that at some point in your lifetime, you will know someone who is battling addiction.

The best way to help a person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol may seem counterintuitive, especially for people who struggle with codependent relationships. And while some of these methods may seem difficult, they come from a loving approach with the ultimate goal of helping a person overcome their addiction and allowing all affected individuals to heal. Your love and support will play a large role in the life of the person who is addicted, and could very well be life-saving.


Educate Yourself

One of the best ways to help someone battling a substance use disorder (SUD) is to understand how addiction works and what it actually is. Addiction is not a moral failing or a weakness of character. It can have many contributing factors, from genetics to biological factors to environmental ones.

Take the initiative to educate yourself about addiction, its causes, and available treatment options. Understanding the complexities of addiction can help you empathize with your loved one’s challenges and provide more informed support. Stay updated on resources, support groups, and recovery strategies to offer practical assistance and encouragement along their journey.


Encourage Professional Help

Gently but firmly encourage your friend or family member to seek professional assistance from addiction specialists or therapists. Offer to research treatment options, accompany them to appointments, and provide emotional support throughout the process. Professional guidance can equip them with effective coping strategies and interventions tailored to their needs.


Establish Healthy Boundaries

It is important to offer emotional support when a loved one is struggling with drug addiction, but it is equally important to set boundaries and not enable drug-seeking and using behaviors. Enabling someone’s addiction can take many forms, almost all of them well-meaning. Some examples include:

  • Offering cash
  • Offering a place to stay
  • Offering to help hide the addiction from friends, family, or coworkers
  • Paying bills that they misplace, forget, or ignore
  • Picking up their slack if they are a coworker
  • Giving them rides to or from locations that are clearly not related to school or work

Set clear boundaries to protect yourself from being emotionally drained or enabling harmful behavior. Communicate your boundaries compassionately, emphasizing your commitment to their well-being while maintaining your own mental and emotional health. Consistent boundaries can encourage accountability and foster an environment conducive to recovery.


Provide Non-Judgmental Support

Offer a non-judgmental ear for your loved one to express their thoughts, feelings, and struggles without fear of criticism. Validate their experiences and emotions while refraining from blaming or shaming them for their addiction. Creating a safe space for open dialogue can strengthen your relationship and motivate them to seek help without fear of rejection.


What Not to Do

As much as it is important to know what to do when your family member is battling addiction, it is equally as beneficial to know what not to do.

Refrain from blame as much as possible. This includes blaming your loves one or yourself for the addiction. Be calm and rational when talking to your loved one about their addiction. Avoid name calling or negative statements in an attempt to shame.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Do not allow your loved one to take advantage of you financially or otherwise.
  • Keep yourself out of harm’s way, especially when they are using drugs.
  • Do not tolerate abusive behaviors.
  • Seek professional help if you are feeling vulnerable.
  • Avoid trying to intimidate or guilt them into stopping use.
  • Do not lecture.
  • Try to have supportive, yet firm, conversations about their drug use and behaviors when they are sober.
  • Be patient and understand that addiction did not develop overnight and will take time and effort to recover from.


When An Intervention is Necessary

Staging an intervention can be a crucial step in helping an addict who is resistant to seeking help. An intervention is a carefully orchestrated meeting where multiple loves ones, colleagues, or family members come together to express their concerns and offer support to the addict. It can either be a surprise or a planned event, depending on the circumstances.

Many individuals struggling with drug addiction often exhibit a certain level of denial. They may be reluctant to acknowledge the severity of their problem and may not feel ready to embark on the journey of recovery. However, an intervention serves as a powerful tool to confront them with the profound impact their addiction has on their loved ones and their own well-being. By shedding light on the consequences of their actions, an intervention can serve as a catalyst for them to seek treatment earlier rather than later, ultimately paving the way for a brighter future.

If you decide to stage an intervention, it is crucial to be prepared for immediate follow-up. Take the time to plan and organize the logistics in advance, ensuring that it is easy and quick for individuals struggling with addiction to start their treatment journey. This may involve arranging immediate transportation to a reputable treatment facility that suits their specific needs and circumstances.

In addition to addressing the practical aspects, it is also important to consider the financial aspect of recovery. Gathering information about health insurance coverage and exploring the availability of treatment facilities can greatly assist in providing comprehensive support to your loved one. By taking these extra steps and being thorough in your approach, you can make a significant difference in their journey towards recovery.


Helping the Addict Requires Healing the Family

You can’t help your loved one if you are repetitively coming to their rescue every time. It not only enables their behavior but it takes attention away from every other member of your family. Helping the addict is a process that involves your entire family, not just the person with the problem.

Every family member must be on board with learning to stop enabling the addict. They’re not going to get well if someone continues stepping in every time the addict gets into trouble. You must make sure that each person is willing to do what it takes to recognize their enabling habits.

Sometimes this involves other members of the family seeking help, too. For example, family therapy is an important part of addiction treatment programs. It provides a space for families to talk about unspoken issues and work through these damaged dynamics. Having a therapist present as a neutral third party ensures the discussion stays on track and everyone in the session feels heard.

Help is Available

At Cumberland Heights, we’re here to help. We know it can be difficult to navigate the confusing space between helping and enabling an addict, but we support your goals and can help you get your loved one the treatment that they need. Call us today to learn more about our services and talk with our admissions staff about the right next steps to take to help your loved one escape the grip of addiction.

You can reach us at 615.492.8649 or by using the contact form here.