We don't realize that the way we react to a loved one's addiction can actually make things worse in the long run for them as well as ourselves. When someone we love or care about is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, the best way to help them is to obtain guidance and support for ourselves first.
Addiction doesn't just affect the individual that abuses drugs or alcohol, their illness and destructive behaviors have a major emotional impact on family and close friends as well.
Educate Yourself About Addiction
Our main goal is for the addict to receive treatment for their addiction, and how we react and behave to their illness and behaviors can make a big difference in getting them to recognize their serious need for help. This is a time when family and friends need to learn as much as they can about addiction, because it's a chronic illness that causes compulsive drug seeking behaviors and use.
Addiction can happen to anyone, at any age, and affects people in all walks of life. Addiction is a serious crippling disease and an addict isn't weak if they're unable to control their behaviors on their own, because it's a chronic relapsing illness.
No one can control an addict's behavior but when you care about a person, that's usually the first thing family members or friends try to do because it's devastating to watch them suffer and destroy their entire life. The truth is though we can't control an addict's behavior, we can only control our own and how we react to their addiction. There are steps we can take that will make life a little easier because arguing, fighting and enabling the addict ends up causing more harm to everyone involved.
Seeking Addiction Help for Yourself First
If someone in your life is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, the best way to help them is to receive guidance and support for yourself first. Attending an Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meeting will provide you with the best advice when it comes to handling a loved one's addiction effectively. Members of Al-anon and Nar-anon understand what you're going through because they have all been where you are right now. Through sharing personal experiences and receiving positive support, members help one another through encouragement and by taking in helpful information that's shared among the group.
Set Limits and Boundaries When Dealing with Addiction
To help a person addicted to drugs or alcohol you have to establish boundaries with them and this isn't easy to do, especially if the addict is a loved one or close friend because you don't want to hurt their feelings. Sitting down with them and making it clear that you choose not to be around them if they're drinking or using drugs because their behavior is affecting your health as well, is an example of setting limits. Even though this is a hard thing to do, the addicts behavior is keeping you emotionally and possibly physically sick, you can't control their use of drugs or alcohol, but you can control being around it.
Emotional Detachment when Dealing with Addiction
It's very hard to deal with a person struggling with addiction and it helps if you're able to separate yourself emotionally from the destructive effects of the relationship with the addict. You have to learn how to protect yourself emotionally in order to maintain your sanity and keep yourself from becoming emotionally ill.
In no way does detaching from an addict emotionally mean you don't love them anymore or that you're abandoning them and giving up. When detaching from an addict, you can still care for them but have to try hard not to get wrapped up in their destructive behaviors emotionally in order to protect your own emotional health. When an addict's behavior affects your emotional health and peace of mind, then eventually you're not in a position to help them later on when they do decide to reach out for help.
Confronting an Addict
An informal intervention involves sitting down with an addict in a comfortable setting and having a personal one-on-one conversation with them about their addiction and behaviors, expressing your fears and concerns for them. Casually talking with an addict about their addiction to drugs or alcohol and the possibility of seeking help for substance abuse, can be very effective as long as the conversation doesn't get heated and out of control.
Formal Addiction Intervention
A formal intervention involves a group of people coming together to talk with a family member or friend about their addiction and need for help. Family members and friends come together with the addicted individual to talk with them about their use of drugs or alcohol expressing their fears, concerns and to urge the person to receive help for their addiction. Formal interventions are organized ahead of time and are done in a caring and supportive manor and can also be very effective in getting a person to see their need for help.