Supporting Someone With an Addiction

Recovery from addiction is a long road and one that will require the support of friends and family members from the outset and all the way through. As much as they want to help, those nearest to a person in addiction or recovery may not fully understand what it is they can actually do to be supportive. Experts suggest several specific ways that those close at hand can offer meaningful encouragement and a helpful atmosphere.

1. Learn all that you can about addiction
Believe it or not, educating yourself about the illness of addiction is a tremendous help to the one you love. Read addiction/recovery literature, attend conferences, talk with a therapist and visit local support groups to learn about what drives addiction, what are common triggers and behaviors to look out for, what limits are appropriate and how best to talk with the loved one.

2. Talk, but avoid nagging
Though you will be sorely tempted to do so, constantly pointing out the person’s wrong behavior is not likely to achieve the desired goal of change. Instead, it could just as easily deepen the addiction and drive the person to even greater secrecy. Addiction often results from using substances to avoid having to face difficult emotional settings. Steady criticism won’t produce change but could produce a desire to escape. Still, it is important to be honest about what is going on so long as you don’t come off as lecturing or condescending. This is where support groups or therapists can offer tremendous help based on experience. It is important to be a good listener and demonstrate compassion.

3. Walk the talk
Be honest about examining your own life for any inconsistencies. You won’t get far with finger-pointing regardless, but if there are issues in your own life you lose all credibility. Are you criticizing the other person’s behavior while you are misusing alcohol or tobacco? Is your own life characterized by responsibility and dependability? Do you take into account how your own actions affect the future and others?

4. Eliminate enabling behaviors
It may feel loving to do it, but don’t cover for the person when their wrong choices produce negative consequences. Keep in mind that your goal is to help the person face reality and see their need for change.

5. Stay mentally strong
Chronic worry over the other person will wear you down. You need to make sure that you are getting sufficient sleep and regular exercise in order to maintain your own mental health. Hope that change is really possible is the greatest weapon you possess in your battle against addiction.