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Overcoming Addiction – How You Can Help a Loved One

Editor Dan Schimmel, LCSW, CAP
Created On
Updated On

It’s no secret that addictions can tear apart families and relationships. Watching a loved one deal with his or her addiction can be heartbreaking. It can also bring up other emotions like frustration and anger. Many people aren’t certain about what their role should be when it comes to someone else’s addiction. They want to offer support, but don’t know where to start. Because of this, some families choose to ignore the problem, pretending like nothing is wrong. This can lead to even more discouragement and heartache as the family continues to exist in turmoil. In most cases, taking action is the best way to take care of the loved one, as well as the family as a whole. With the goal of helping a loved one with an addiction in mind, here are several things that you can do to make a difference.

Learn More About the Addiction

While there are some shared characteristics of most addictions, including denial and hiding the behavior, each person and situation is different. In order to provide help, it is important to understand the specific addiction and its warning signs. Observe the loved one’s behavior and make note of what is happening to the individual and the family. The more friends and family understand what is going on, the better able they will be to provide help when the time comes. Remember that an addiction is not always an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Individuals can be addicted to everything from gambling or pornography, to Internet use or food.

Express Love and Support

An honest conversation is a great first step to have with a loved one. Being a good friend often means speaking up. Using the new knowledge about the addiction, it is possible to gain perspective on what a person is going through. When talking to the loved one, make sure to offer love and support. This is a great opportunity to mention some of the things that you’ve noticed over the past couple of days, weeks, or months that led you to believe he or she had an addiction. Avoid coming across preachy or judgmental. Try expressing yourself through “I statements” that convey your concern, rather than seemingly accusatory “you statements.” Such may cause him or her to avoid future conversations and to see you as someone that doesn’t understand. If you are willing to help, let him or her know that you are able to go with them to get help. If a loved one comes to you and asks for help, be sure to react in a similar way. Love and support will go a long way when compared to fussing.

Set Up an Intervention

Sometimes a one-on-one conversation isn’t enough. A person may still be in denial about what is really going on. In this case, it could be time for an intervention. An intervention brings together the supportive family and friends of the person suffering from addiction. This confrontation involves listing out specific incidents surrounding the addiction and explaining how it has impacted the people participating in the intervention. Most people bring notes to the intervention to help explain what is going on and how they feel. Sometimes a professional counselor is present to lead the conversation. After each friend or family member has had an opportunity to speak, a treatment plan is outlined for the addict. Finally, loved ones explain how things will change if the addict is unwilling to successfully undergo some form of treatment. This can be difficult, but for many struggling with addiction, it is the turning point. It’s important to keep in mind that in many instances of addiction, the addict is deeply saddened by the pain they’ve caused their family and friends; often they’re overwhelmed by the collateral damage of their addiction.

Consult a Professional

At any point in the process, it helps to speak with a professional about addiction and the current situation. In addition to learning more about the addiction, it provides a friend or family member with resources to help deal with the circumstances. There are times when a professional, such as a substance abuse counselor or a doctor specializing in addiction, should be brought in as part of an intervention. He or she will be able to offer insight into the situation and help deal with things should the intervention get out of control.

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