Seeing someone you care about suffer from an addiction is not an easy thing. In fact, it is often extremely harrowing even for casual acquaintances, and the lives of everyone involved are affected. Still, before you rashly decide to try and do something, it is better to acquaint yourself with ways you can help friends through their addiction struggle.
Avoid emotional abuse as motivation
If you really want to help friends through their addiction struggle, then the first thing you need to know is that addicts of any type often have a fragile mental state. Wanting to motivate them or shock them out of their addiction will not work if you rely on threats, verbal abuse, or rubbing their reality into their faces. If anything, doing something like that would immediately drive them deeper into their addiction. And they are very likely to cut you out of their lives out of anger. Or just desire to continue avoiding having to face their addiction.
Insist on therapy
Even if you do your best to learn how you can help friends through their addiction struggle, it is a sad reality that you cannot do it on your own. Professionals are called that for a reason, and the institutions that are dedicated to helping addicts overcome their problems are the best route to a permanent solution. The experts from Bright Futures Treatment Center Florida also warn that, while good intentioned, trying to help someone on your own can easily backfire. So, be very firm in your stance that they need to look for help elsewhere, too, and not just rely on you.
Look for the root cause
Addiction very rarely forms without a reason. Common causes of addiction are depression and financial insecurity that drive people into taking mind-altering substances. If someone is desperate for money and sees gambling as a potential way out, it is very easy for them to get addicted to what was supposed to be their hope to get out of a rough patch. And that is before accounting for the pandemic’s impact on mental health! If you do understand what drives a person to take drugs, however, it is possible to slowly help them work out their issues.
Be there for them
Of course, if you really want to help a friend overcome addiction, you need to be supportive of them. Just be a shoulder to cry on and hear them out. In fact, being there for someone is always a good approach, even if they are not suffering from addiction. Teen mental health, for example, can be much improved this way. Which can help avoid avoiding to begin with.
Be honest and upfront
We’ve mentioned the need to be mindful of your friend’s feelings and being supportive. Still, this does not mean that there is no place for blunt honesty. Sometimes, addicts are incapable of actually facing the reality of their condition. They are convinced that they can stop. Or that their actions are not affecting anyone other than themselves. However, for healing to begin, they must be confronted with the consequences of their actions.
Do not allow yourself to waver
Trying to help friends through their addiction struggle is not going to be pretty or easy. Withdrawal is ugly, messy, and downright heartrending to watch. You may even want to just give up yourself when faced with their suffering. Just as often, addicts will actually have a relatively good justification for their addiction. Those who are addicted to pain meds typically take them to deal with a chronic condition, for example. And with the jury still out on whether cannabis is good or bad for your health, making any sort of argument against a marijuana addiction can seem unwise. However, consider this: no matter how justified they are, or how much pain the process will cause, going clean will ultimately be much better for them.
Try to still be respectful of their privacy
An important thing for an addict to understand is that people in their life are trying to help. Yet some people get overzealous. They become extremely paranoid of whether their addicted friend is doing drugs behind their back. So, they overstep boundaries and deny almost any privacy to the addict in question. This, unfortunately, does more harm than good. Denying someone their privacy makes it feel like you don’t trust them, and they may lash out and purposely pursue their addiction again in retaliation.
Prepare for a long battle
As you may have gotten an inkling through our previous advice on how to help friends through their addiction struggle, to truly help will take a while. The battle against addiction can take months or even years. So, if you do decide to help, understand that you will need to put in consistent effort over a very long time period. If you are not sure you can dedicate yourself to something like that, then it is better not to try at all. Those who look for help and end up relapsing are typically more reluctant to trust someone and try to overcome their addiction again.
Being more familiar with ways you can help friends through their addiction struggle, you may be eager to try and act. However, it is smarter to first form a safety net out of other friends, family and loved ones. It will take more than the efforts of one person to see your friend overcome their addiction, so the more help you have the better.