7 Tips To Support A Friend Struggling With Addiction
Addiction destroys people’s lives from the inside out. It is an incredibly deceitful disease because it feels amazing at first. However, over time, substance abuse ruins your health and steals your future. It will destroy the most valuable relationships in your life, break your body, and burden you with shame and regret.
Like other progressive diseases, addiction is much easier to heal if you catch it early. Family and friends play a pivotal role in recognizing the signs of addiction and providing support through the recovery process. Here are seven things you can do to support a friend struggling with addiction.
Recognize the Signs
It can be challenging to tell if someone is struggling with addiction because most people try to hide the things they’re dealing with. However, there are some signs you can watch for that may signal a developing addiction. Paying attention is an important first step in supporting your friends.
Addiction often follows mental illness as a form of coping. Think about whether your friend has had abnormal mood swings, isolates themselves, or appears “off” in some way. Addicted individuals sometimes have trouble sleeping, gain or lose weight quickly, or have bloodshot eyes.
Ask How They Are
It’s much easier to pursue an addiction if you’re isolated from others. Check in with your friends by genuinely asking them how they are. Then, make eye contact and give them time to talk. Let them know you care about their well-being and are really listening. Ask follow-up questions and let them know you care about them.
It’s usually not effective to say, “I’m concerned you’re addicted to drugs.” However, saying instead, “I care about you” will build trust and open up a conversation that leads to more honesty later. If your friend won’t meet your eyes or acts self-conscious, there may be something going on that they’re not telling you about.
Be Honest With Them
Honesty establishes trust and leads to intimacy. If you’re worried about your friend, say so. You could even point out that you’ve noticed they’re not doing well and want to help. When you are honest, you create trust that allows the other person to open up. Whether or not they choose to be honest in return is their decision.
Although honesty is important, it can be terrifying. You may be afraid of hurting your friend’s feelings or worried they’ll cut you off if you say what you’re thinking. Sometimes, blunt honesty can harm more than it helps. However, being truthful about your thoughts and feelings is essential for a healthy relationship.
Respond With Compassion
Many people experiencing addiction are terrified of being discovered. Often, addiction starts with prescription drugs – around 16 million people misuse these drugs every year. Addicted individuals are often afraid to admit they have a problem or need help. Another way you can build trust with your friends is by offering them compassion.
You may not be able to empathize with what they’re going through, but you can sympathize. Make sure they know you love and support them even if you can’t support all their choices. You should never compromise kindness with enabling. If you really care about your friend, you’ll create boundaries that protect them and yourself.
Make Yourself Available
You can also help by letting your friend know they can always call you. Let them know they can interrupt your sleep if they need a ride in the middle of the night. Make yourself available to support your friend when they desperately need someone to be there for them. Putting your friend first doesn’t need to be unhealthy to be meaningful.
Being a good friend absolutely never means supporting unhealthy behavior. For example, you should never give a vulnerable friend money they can spend on illegal substances. You should be aware that friends under the influence of addiction may steal from you, threaten you, or give you the silent treatment because they’re angry.
Research Treatment Options
It may take a while for your friend to admit they need help. Addiction clouds your mind so that it’s difficult to acknowledge there’s a problem or even want to seek help. However, most addicts have moments of clarity when they’re tired of living this way and want their lives to change.
You can support your friend’s recovery by researching options for treatment. Send them any information you find on programs in your area that can support them if they choose to seek help. It’s a good idea to include mental health support as well as addiction support. When they’re ready to make a change, it will be easy for them to take the next step.
Be Patient – and Active
Healing takes time. Follow the six steps above to find out whether your friend is struggling with addiction and offer them support. Don’t withdraw from the relationship unless it’s essential for your personal safety. Be willing to wait while the person realizes there’s a problem and decides to seek help.
On the flip side, addiction is incredibly destructive. You don’t want to “patiently” allow this disease to destroy your friend without acting to protect them. The hard truth is that you can’t force someone to change. However, you can refuse to enable their destructive behavior and stay honest with them about your concerns. Keep offering help, but know their choice isn’t yours to make.
Find Yourself Some Support
Addiction is a progressive disease that destroys not only individuals but families and other valuable relationships. You can support a friend struggling with addiction by following these seven steps. However, it’s also essential that you find support for yourself.
Attend an Al-Anon meeting or join a local Facebook group for support. Don’t downplay the stress you feel from caring for a sick friend. It’s normal to feel frightened, angry, and exhausted during this process. To be the best friend possible, you need to have support as well.
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