Addiction is a long and heartbreaking journey. Not only does the addict suffer, but those around him suffer as well. When a friend or loved one is stuck in the throes of addiction, it’s natural to want to aggressively push him or her to seek help. Unfortunately, aggressive tactics very rarely work and can even push a person further into their addiction. Fortunately there are ways to gently encourage your friend or family member to get the help that they need.
1. Learn about addiction.
The very first step in knowing how to encourage someone to seek help for addiction is understand addiction yourself. Understanding the science of addiction—how addiction works, why it happens, and what kind of support an addict needs—is critical to helping him or her overcome their struggle.
Learn about the different types of addiction. Addiction comes in many forms including alcohol and drugs, as well as things such as gambling and even sex. Understanding the specific addiction is beneficial to helping your friend or family member with their own. Find out the resources available and if there are group programs available. These programs often allow friends and family members to attend in support.
2. Be supportive.
While you cannot make someone quit doing something, you can be there to lend a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes, an addict feels as though they’re alone in the world, which can further drive the “arms” of what they’re addicted to. Letting your friend or family member know that you love them and are concerned about them will help them realize that they’re not alone. Let them know that your phone is always on if they need someone to talk to to get through a craving or if they just want to vent about something that’s bothering them.
3. Talk to professionals.
If the addict is willing, bring him or her along to discuss addiction with healthcare professionals. There are seminars and meetings available that will help educate you both on addiction, but will also provide resources to help you on your next steps. Even if the addict refuses to come along, this is still beneficial to you as a concerned friend or family member. It helps you to better assess the situation and gain a better understanding of what happens in treatment.
4. Understand that this is a long process.
Addiction does not disappear overnight. For many addicts, the thought of being sober is desirable, but knowing it’s a lifelong battle is discouraging. Even if your friend or loved one overcomes their addiction, the triggers and risk of relapse will always be there. Don’t assume that an addict can be “cured.” A bad day can easily lead them back right where they started. You need to fully understand the severity of addiction and let your loved one know that you will be there for the long haul.
5. Set boundaries.
It sounds harsh, but if you’re dealing with someone who shows absolutely no signs of wanting to quit, it could be because they’re being enabled (whether by you or others in their life). It’s important to get friends and family on the same page. An addict who has everything they need at their fingertips to continue using—whether it be money, a ride to get what they want, or even someone to talk to while they’re high—will never realize true “rock bottom.”
To combat this, strict boundaries need to be set in place. It is an extremely difficult thing to do but is a crucial step in encouraging him or her to get help. For example, the addict know that as long as he’s “using,” you will no longer provide financial assistance, or tell the addict that he or she is unwelcome at your home if under the influence. Slowly, the resources will begin to fade and quitting will be a more valuable choice.
6. Support their recovery.
If and when the addict decides to get help, support him or her every step of the way. Even if it’s not their first time attempting to get help, it’s just as important. An addict who is seeking treatment is in a vulnerable state and needs as much love and support as they can get. Don’t discourage him by bringing up situations of the past and instead, look toward the future.
Addiction is painful for everyone involved. The realities are frightening, especially when you realize that you cannot force an addict to seek help. Once you realize, however, that there are ways to gently nudge him or her in the right direction, you’ll recognize that there is power in powerlessness when helping someone overcome addiction.