If Someone You Care About Has An Addiction Problem, You Should Take Immediate Action
If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, there are certain steps you can take to help the person you care about. These steps should be taken right away. It is important to remember that addiction is a life-threatening condition that can result in premature death. If someone you care about has a substance abuse problem, you should take action immediately. Every minute counts.
Having an addict in your life can be a stressful and confusing time. While you may have a sincere desire to help someone with a substance abuse problem, you may not know where to start. In this article, we will provide you with nine steps you can take to attempt to get an addicted person the help they so desperately need. Doing this will also help you free yourself from what has most likely become an entangling situation.
#1 Get Educated About The Disease Of Addiction
While it may be difficult to wrap your mind around, an addicted person suffers from a disease called addiction. It is important that you understand this before you talk to the person you care about.
Here’s what the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has to say about the disease of addiction: “Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs.”
Although the person you love may be exhibiting bad behavior, they are not a bad person – they are a sick person who has an illness. Understanding this will make it easier to approach the situation. Do some extended research about the disease of addiction so you can be armed with information.
#2 Always Approach An Addicted Person With Compassion
Although it may be difficult to overcome your anger and resentment towards the person who is using drugs or alcohol, it is important to remember that you are dealing with a sick person. When someone is in active addiction, they are not themselves. They are under the influence of powerful mood and mind-altering substances that cause them to do things they wouldn’t normally do.
Although the person you care about may have stolen from you, wrecked your property, been disrespectful towards you or caused you harm in some way, you simply must approach the situation with lovingkindness and compassion. This is the only way you have any hope to reach the person and be heard.
While it may be your inclination to lash out and be angry, this won’t get you anywhere. In fact, someone who is addicted will respond by being defensive and dig their heels in deeper. Addicted people do not respond well to confrontation – especially when it feels like they are being attacked. This only gives them more reason to continue in their addictive cycle.
#3 Talk To The Addicted Person About The Situation
If you think someone you care about has a problem with substance abuse, you should talk to them one-on-one first. Explain that you are concerned they may be a drug addict or alcoholic. Ask them to take a quiz to help them determine if they have a problem.
If they come to the realization that they have a substance abuse problem and they are willing to admit it, ask them if they think they need to go for in-patient rehabilitation. If the person is not ready to consider inpatient treatment, ask them if they would be willing to go to an outpatient program. Have information ready about nearby inpatient and outpatient programs that you can present to the person.
If the person is unwilling to consider treatment, ask them if they would attend a 12-Step meeting at Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Tell them you are willing to go with them.
If you express concern and the person reacts with denial, anger, or hostility; tell them that you are concerned for their life and that you will be taking additional steps to see that they get the help they need.
#4 Join Forces With The People Closest To The Addicted Person
It is not uncommon for someone with an addiction problem to respond with denial or outright anger when they are confronted about their substance abuse. Denial is a powerful aspect of addiction. It tells a person with that they don’t have a problem and that they can get their situation under control.
Addiction affects the entire family unit. If the addicted person you care about is a family member, it is helpful for the family to get together. If they are a friend or coworker, talk to the family and express your concern and tell them you are available for support.
As a group, family and friends can make plans about how they are going to work together as a team to combat the problem at hand. This may include an intervention.
#5 Staging An Intervention Is An Effective And Powerful Way To Break Through Denial
One of the most effective ways to help an addicted person is to stage an intervention. With an intervention, family and friends join together and confront the person who has a drug or alcohol problem in a loving environment.
Typically, everyone who is present reads letters they have written to explain why they are concerned. This gives everyone the opportunity to shed light on how the addiction has affected them personally. This is also a chance for everyone to present a unified front to force the person out of denial.
The intervention should have an end goal – to motivate the person to get help for their substance abuse problem. You might suggest that they go to an in-patient or an out-patient treatment program even if they have already said they would be unwilling to go.
#6 Set Healthy Boundaries For Yourself
During the intervention, everyone present should be prepared to set some healthy boundaries. People who love someone who is addicted are notorious for becoming enmeshed with the addict or alcoholic they care about. Enmeshment is what happens when boundary lines become blurred and it is difficult to tell where someone starts and ends.
When you stage the intervention, you should be willing to explain to the addicted person that you are no longer willing to do certain things if they do not get help for their addiction. This may include no longer helping them financially, taking their late-night crisis calls, or participating in their life altogether. Many people who care about an addict or alcoholic have to make the decision that unless the addicted person gets help, they simply cannot carry on a relationship with them anymore.
Explain to the addict or alcoholic that you are willing to help them in their recovery, but you are no longer willing to play in active role in their downward spiral.
#7 Stop Enabling The Addicted Person
When you care about someone who is addicted, you will find yourself saying yes to all sorts of ridiculous requests. You have to learn how to say no. As long as someone with an addiction problem has someone in their life that continues to bail them out of situations they have created for themselves, they will never recover.
If you are doing things that allow the addicted person to continue in their quest to drink more booze or take more drugs, you are enabling that person’s behavior. Family members or friends of an addicted person have the most sincere desire to help, but end up becoming chief enablers.
Lending money, listening to the person moan about the situations they keep creating for themselves, buying them drugs or giving them alcohol, giving them rides to buy drugs or alcohol, bailing them out of jail and assisting with legal problems related to the addiction are all examples of enabling behavior. A solid, loving “no” is the best gift you can give someone in the grip of addiction or alcoholism.
#8 Get Support For Yourself
Addiction is a destructive force that rips through the lives of everyone it comes into contact with. If you have been in a relationship with an addictive person for any length of time, chances are you are exhausted, angry, confused, and downright frustrated.
One of the ways you can help an addicted person (and yourself) is to get help for yourself by joining a support group that helps family members of addicts or alcoholics. Al-Anon is an excellent resource for people who love someone who has a substance abuse problem. At Al-Anon, you can learn to become happy and whole whether the person you care about is drinking or drugging or not.
Find an Al-Anon meeting near you.
#9 Remember, You Didn’t Cause It, You Can’t Cure It, And You Can’t Control It
It is important to keep in mind that no matter what you or your family members do to help someone with a substance abuse problem, your help may go unappreciated. Addiction is a cunning enemy of life and it can take someone with a drug or alcohol problem years to finally sober up. Some people never do. Sadly, many people die from the disease of addiction.
We don’t say this to frighten you. We simply want you to have an accurate assessment of the situation at hand. If you do everything in your power to help someone with an addiction and they refuse your help, do not take this personally. It doesn’t mean the person doesn’t love or care about you. It simply means they are unable to surrender their addiction at the present moment and accept help.
If Someone Refuses Help, You Have a Decision To Make
If you have done everything you can do to help someone with an addiction problem and they absolutely refuse your support, you have to make a decision. Are you going to continue to participate in the insanity of addiction or are you going to set yourself free?
It is unhealthy for you to stay entangled in a relationship with an active addict or alcoholic. If you choose freedom, you are not turning your back on the person you care about. You are simply making a decision to take care of yourself.