Any sort of addiction talk is hard to approach. While it’s very obvious to you that your intentions are pure and you just want to help, you can always expect some backlash. However, someone needs to take the first step and offer helps to an addict, and if in this situation that ‘someone’ is you, here’s a little guide that will help you offer the best help and make all the right moves. While every addict and every circumstance is different, it’s good to know these general guidelines of approaching someone struggling with addiction.
This is always the first thing to know—show that you care about the addict and be kinds and compassioned. Kindness is always the right way to interact with a person struggling with addiction. Substance abuse is so stigmatized that people who suffer from it expect to be treated with disgust. They are often criticized, insulted and rejected, so if you take a different path and be kind, you might reach them and make a change in their lives.
Learn about addiction
If you don’t understand the facts concerning addiction, you can’t really help someone dealing with addiction. It’s best to start by getting educated on alcohol addiction so you can understand (at least a little bit better) the way an addict feels. According to most addiction centres, addiction is a chronic disease of the brain that is connected to dependence on alcohol, drug or certain behaviour. Once someone gets addicted, they will pursue their habit even after their health and the health of their loved ones is on the line.
One important thing to remember that addiction is not a choice. Things like genetics, mental health and stability and even strong curiosity can be blamed for addiction and can lead someone down this hellish road. There are also so many things one can become addicted to like drugs, alcohol, medication, gambling, eating, shopping, video games, sex and many other substances and behaviours. Additionally, symptoms of addiction are also very different and they can vary from behavioural shifts to serious health issues and troubles in the family and workplace. It’s very important to recognize that someone you love suffers from addiction since many of addicts refuse to see it in themselves.
Do it one-on-one
While sometimes a group intervention is necessary, it’s best to start with a one-on-one conversation. Group interventions can be overwhelming and hard to control, so an addict can quickly put up walls. One-on-one conversations are easier to keep civil, friendly and blame-free. Try to use neutral language and don’t raise your voice or get angry. The response will undoubtedly be better if you approach addiction from a place of compassion than blame.
It’s hard to put your concerns to words, so it’s good to have some specific examples in mind so you can use them to provide your explanations. Maybe you remember a party you attended where your friend took drugs and you saw negative consequences of their drug abuse. You can also give examples of the way their behaviour and entire life changed because of a certain drug or habit. Make sure to honestly approach the subject and state what you love about your friend when they are sober and what you don’t like when they are under the influence.
Listen, listen, listen
No matter who is it on the other side, anyone is more likely to confide in you if you listen carefully and don’t interrupt. Even if you don’t agree with something they say, make sure to be respectable and listen while they talk.
Communicating through your actions is just as important as communicating through your words. For example, don’t hate on an addict for drinking and then share a beer with them in a bar. Be consistent!
Show love and care
No matter the severity of their situation, you need to show that you still love them. Sometimes, this is not possible without lying (don’t lie), so make sure to state that you still have their best interests at heart. But, just because you care, it doesn’t mean you’re ready to put up with anything. Let them know that you won’t be intimidated and that you have your limits. Once they get tested, follow through on the set boundaries to show that you’re not just manipulating the addict and making empty threats.
Offer to help with professionals
Many addicts feel scared and ashamed to ask for help. So, let them know that they can rely on you in such times and assist them in getting help. You can research facilities and professionals and get additional education on the subject. If they refuse treatment, make sure to find help for yourself. This will help you deal with their addiction and even inspire them to try to change when they see it’s possible.
While approaching someone with an addiction isn’t an easy task, these guidelines might help make the entire process easier and more successful. If you can, make sure to talk reach out—any help is beneficial.