- When you want to help someone recovering from addiction, the first question you need to answer is not how you can help but if you can help.
- If you are in a position to help someone recovering from addiction, realize that helping may not always feel like helping.
- When someone is recovering from addiction, there is never a good time to get sober, so you have to be patient and persistent when providing support.
It happened. Someone you know or care about has admitted they are struggling with alcohol or substance use disorder. Now, you naturally want to help. When someone is recovering from addiction, feeling that desire to help is a good thing. However, that urge alone does not mean you are ready to help.
Drug and alcohol dependency is a complex issue often rooted in multiple causes, so you have to be careful to distinguish between behaviors that seem helpful and behaviors that actually are helpful. It is not always as obvious as you might think. When someone is struggling with addiction, seemingly “helpful” behaviors may actually be setting them back.
For example, you may want to help them with daily responsibilities. While helping out with small things like paying bills may seem helpful at the moment, it can actually end up perpetuating the cycle of addiction as those responsibilities grow with time.
The best place to start when you are trying to help someone with an addiction is actually by performing an assessment—but not the kind of assessment you may be imagining. Instead, the best first assessment is an honest self-assessment.
Just because you want to support someone through addiction, it does not mean you are ready to. You might have the best intentions, but if you are currently struggling with your own issues, you might not be able to give that person the support they need when they need it.
Some questions to ask yourself to ensure you are in a position to help include:
If you are living with a recovering addict, it is important to remember that home environment can be a contributing factor behind addiction. It might be difficult to admit, but it is important to ask if you might be engaging in any behaviors that contribute to a stressful, unhealthy, or enabling home environment. When that is the case, one of the most helpful things you can do is stop engaging in those behaviors while helping others in the household cultivate a supportive environment.
Codependency describes a relationship dynamic where one person derives their sense of self-worth from their partner. They “need to be needed,” so to speak, and these kinds of relationships often develop in conjunction with addiction. If codependency may be an issue in the relationship with your loved one, the best way to help is to identify and work through those issues in yourself.
If you are also struggling with addiction, you probably are not yet in a position to help someone else recovering from addiction. The best thing you can do is seek help for your own issues. Once you have worked through those issues within yourself, you will be in a position to help others.
If you are ready to help someone recovering from addiction, take these steps to get started:
1. Help Them Get the Help They Need
When you are supporting someone you care about through the addiction recovery journey, you have to realize you can only do so much, and the journey is much easier when you have the help of people who have been there before. One of the best ways to support someone struggling with an addiction is to encourage them to get the professional help they need, whether it is entering a treatment program or exploring therapy. You can even help them research recovery options they might not be aware of!
2. Open Up and Build Support
Once you have taken steps to ensure the person you care about is getting an appropriate level of professional support, the next step is to build a personal support network around that person. Encourage them to open up to the people in their life who have their best interests at heart. Opening up can take time because it requires vulnerability, but few can recover from addiction alone. The more support the person you care about has, the likelier they are to achieve their recovery goals.
Addictive behaviors tend to develop out of a sense of isolation or loneliness. That is why connection is one of the best remedies for addiction, and simply listening is one of the easiest ways to make that connection when someone is struggling with addiction.
It does not matter whether you have been there before or if you understand exactly where they are coming from all the time. You probably will not, and that is okay. What matters is that you are listening, and with time, that connection will help counter the negative feelings that may have led to the onset of addiction.
4. Do Not Be Afraid To Push Back
While listening is one of the simplest ways to support someone working through an addiction, it is also important to know when and how to push back. The best addiction treatment programs integrate family therapy into their approach to empower family members with the tools and skills to play a conducive role in the recovery journey of their loved one.
Remember that when someone is struggling with addiction, there is no good day to get sober. They may downplay high-risk events or assume that they no longer have to work on themselves as soon as formal treatment ends. It is at times like those when you need the courage to push them a little harder than they are willing to push themselves.
If you are still trying to figure out how you can help someone recovering from addiction, ALYST Health is here to help you. We work with everyone from family members to co-workers with complete confidentiality. If you are ready, learn more about how to stage an intervention or the addiction resources we provide family members.