The challenge with addiction is that the addict is not the only one impacted by this disease. Family and friends can have difficulty with the addict’s behavior, financial problems, legal problems and the daily struggle of supporting a loved one. Here are seven tips that family and friends can reference to support an addicted family member or friend.
Tip #1: Educate Yourself
Get information about addictions. Understand the addict’s disease process. Find information about how it impacts the family and friends. Knowledge is power and it may help you understand more about yourself and your loved one. There are many resources for finding this information: SAMHSA.gov (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration) has all types of educational and informational resources. The public library and the internet have an enormous amount of information for education, groups, support, treatment, etc.
Tip #2: Get Support
When you have a loved one with an addiction problem, it can create a great deal of difficulty in your life. There are groups that can help you learn how to cope, provide resources and help the addict, including:
- Al-Anon (focused on Alcohol addiction)
- Nar-Anon (focused on drug addiction – prescription and illegal)
Tip #3: Get Counseling
It may be helpful to get some individual counseling to assist yourself. Counseling isn’t just for the addict. The more you are able to manage the better you will be able to help your loved one. There are a variety of resources to find counselors. Your company may have an Employee Assistance Program or your health insurance may have mental health benefits that you can access. Talk to someone you trust about finding the resources you need and do a search for resources in your area.
Tip #4: Seek Specialty Help
If you need assistance with financial issues or legal issues it may be helpful to talk to attorney providers that are covered. There are organizations that provide services on a sliding scale fee and you can often find those by calling your local Mental Health Agency or United Way. Local churches may also provide some low or no cost counseling.
Tip #5: Don’t Enable
It is difficult for family members when the disease takes hold. Often, family members have supported the person’s addiction without even fully realizing that was what they were doing. Don’t rescue the addict. Let them experience the consequences of their disease. Many times, people are unable to change until they are forced. Don’t financially support the addict or their addiction. Many family members and friends buy groceries, give financial assistance to pay court fines or attorneys, or pay rent to help someone out, but usually it only prolongs the disease as addicts are able to avoid consequences.
Tip #6: Have Realistic Expectations
Don’t preach or lecture to the addict. They are usually unable to hear what you are saying. Continue to hold them accountable to expectations and offer help to direct them to the treatment they need. Don’t expect addicts to keep promises, they are not able to do so while in the process of their disease. Don’t react with pity or anger. This only keeps you in the process with the addict.
If your loved one is ready to get help, visit our Alcohol and Drug Treatment page to find out more about getting a referral and assessment.You can also contact Legal Aid programs in your area to see if you qualify for those services or they may be able to direct you to someone who can assist you.
Tip #7: Take Care of Yourself
Focusing on your own life is the most important thing you can do to assist the addict. If you are stressed out due to their issues, in addition to your own, it creates resentment and strain. It makes it difficult to want to help someone who has created so much difficulty in your life. By taking care of yourself through exercising, getting plenty of sleep, socializing and getting support, you may be better able to help your loved one when they are ready to accept the help.
The most important thing to remember is that you aren’t alone. Many people battle with these issues every day and it is vital to get the resources and support you need.