As a parent, family member or friend of an addict it can be extremely difficult and somewhat frustrating not knowing where to turn to for help and support.
Every case is individual and different, so each case needs to be looked at in isolation. There is no set of rules that will tell you exactly what you should do to help someone, and it can be a lot of trial and error and patience.
People become addicted for a whole host of reasons and gaining a better understanding of why your daughter/son, family member or friend takes drugs will help you to help them.
It’s very difficult to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped and won’t admit that they are addicted, who won’t accept that their addiction could be causing the unhappiness in their lives; in most cases they see it as the only thing that makes them happy.
You can’t fix the problem directly, but you can provide help and support.
Here is a list of guidelines and tools which will hopefully help you through your struggle as it’s not just the addict that is suffering; it’s also anyone who is close to them or cares about them.
Understanding and Accepting Addiction
It is the most difficult thing to admit and accept that your child, friend, partner is an addict. It is just as difficult to understand addiction and realise that this is a disease like cancer or diabetes, and you must understand this. It is not the addict’s fault. Understanding addiction is the first step to being able to help your loved one and to helping them realise that they need help, often professional help.
Educate yourself about the different treatments and tools that are available. Learn the correct route for access to treatment. After your addict accepts that they want help for their addiction, make it easy for them to GET HELP. Understand the steps and the hard work involved in breaking free from addiction. You can then support and help your addict throughout their journey. This website is a good starting point for both your addict and you and your support network.
Talk and Listen
How do you start a conversation with someone that you believe is addicted and you believe needs help? It can be extremely difficult.
Pick your moment; when is their good time? Are they a morning person or a night owl? Do they have times when they don’t seem to be under the influence quite as much and will have a clearer head and listen more readily? Try to sense when they’ll be receptive to the conversation because you won’t get many chances to start it before they recoil at any attempt to try to talk. They won’t want to talk about it because they won’t see that they have a problem so try to approach it from the side – ask them about their day/evening, did they do anything good – you know them so use what you know.
If this gets you nowhere try starting your conversation by telling the person how much you care about them and only want the best for them.
You could say that you’ve noticed they haven’t been themselves lately – is anything wrong? Is there something, anything they want to talk about? You could ask if they think drugs/alcohol is affecting their life, affecting how they are feeling? Do they have relationship issues? Is there perhaps something else that is bothering them?
It is more important to listen to the person than it is to talk. The gaps that you leave between talking may prompt them to open up – if you’re giving them a speech then they don’t have time to consider what you’re saying. If they are brave enough to interact and talk to you then try very, very hard to listen to their point of view; you may not understand it but just listen because you have things to learn too from what they say.
Remember first and foremost that this is an extremely sensitive, difficult conversation and be careful how you talk to them; don’t be judgemental or accusatory. Just listen to what they say. Every person is different and every person reading this will have a different relationship with their addict. How your conversation goes will vary depending on how close you are to them and how much your happiness or lack of it affects them. If you feel like they may be moved by you telling them how their behaviour is affecting your life and perhaps other people’s lives around them in a bad way, then tell them. For others it would send them straight for the door.
In whatever way you decide to start the conversation, it is important that it is exactly that – the start of a conversation. Think before of how you are going to approach them, have in mind what you want to say, when you are going to speak to them. Prepare yourself to speak calmly and empathetically and don’t raise your voice or get angry, even if the conversation deteriorates or if they walk out. There’s always another day to try again and you can use this conversation to make the next one better. The most important thing is to let them know that you want them to get better and that you care and only want them to have a life free from drug/alcohol abuse.
POINT THEM TO THIS WEBSITE by whatever method – tell one of their friends to get them to look at it, leave a post-it note on their bed/desk with the web address – just point them in this direction and we can help. Encourage them to get help and support. Don’t sit on this problem; it will never go away without help and support and could end up in tragedy.
Severity Of the Addiction
How badly are they addicted? Is it just socially when they go out with friends or is it a daily/hourly need. Try to find out without raising suspicions – not easy but it’s important. Only by knowing how badly they’re addicted can you gear your reaction and find the right kind of support and help. If you’re in contact with anyone who may know more about their habit, try to talk to them. This isn’t always easy as the wrong person might alert your addict to the fact that you’re questioning behind their back. They may be worried to break a confidence or ‘split’ on their friend – it’s necessary if possible as it’s quite often the best source of truth but tread carefully.
Look for signs that may indicate the severity of the addiction: items found in the home, money or valuables going missing, their behaviour, physical appearance, mood swings, anger rages, sniffing or runny nose, slurred speech, tremors, weight loss or gain.
This understanding of the severity of the addiction will help you to understand how urgent the intervention needs to be.
Offer Support and Understanding
Your addict needs support whether through the GP, a counsellor, support group or network but crucially from family or friend support.
Knowing that someone cares and loves them and is there to support them is crucial. Use this love/connection as much as possible to try to get them to seek support and treatment. Educate yourself with the resources on this website so that you can tell them what treatment and help is available and the relevant steps necessary.
Help them to organise appointments to get help and make sure that they keep to them – offer to go with them so that you know that they’ve been. If they are offered treatment, support them through their treatment programme and support them by getting involved if that’s possible. I know that this will be as difficult for you as it is for them, but it could make all the difference.
Reassure them that they can do this and that life is going to get better
The main thing is to listen to your friend/loved one. Let them express how they are feeling, let them know that you are there to support them whenever they need you and that you care. Help them to solve any practical problems – do they need a lift to their appointment? Do they want you to come in with them? Have they got enough money to get there/get lunch if they’re going alone? POINT THEM TO THIS WEBSITE AND KEEP DIRECTING THEM HERE – we can help. We can support you in your struggle to help them.
Point Them To this Website
This website has much information for both you and your addict. Point them to it. If they have not yet accepted that they have a problem, they need to understand what addiction is. The site will help them to realise that they do have a problem, need help and are addicted.
Don’t force it down their throat – be careful with how you approach pointing them. Maybe ask a friend to show them, maybe leave a post-it/note on their bed/desk with the web address and ‘check out this’.
Maybe try a conversation
‘I know you don’t think that your drugs/alcohol are causing you a problem, but I came across a really interesting website on addiction. Maybe it might be useful for one of your friends? I’ll send you the link. It’s called ‘HELP FOR ADDICTS’ and has some great info about other stuff too.’ If they think it’s not just about addiction, they’re more likely to look and if you use the ‘not you but your friend’ tack then when they look, in their heads they’re not looking for themselves and therefore not admitting that they’re an addict.
Encourage A Healthy Diet and Exercise Regime
Your addict probably doesn’t care very much about eating and sleeping properly so try to be more aware of their patterns. Perhaps invite them for a healthy cooked meal, offer to cook for them. See if they can be encouraged to take supplements – there are lots of natural supplements that you can take to lift the mood, balance the brain and aid sleep. However, a good diet and exercise are the key starting points to good emotional health and a balanced brain although the emphasis on this is not as great as it should be.
Don’t Enable Their Behaviour
Don’t enable their behaviour by giving them money to support their habit. Instead offer them support to help beat their habit. As much as you want them to find happiness they will never find it whilst they are addicted and any happiness will be short-lived and temporary. Do not approve of this temporary happiness – it is an illusion.
At no point feel guilty. None of this is your fault. It’s not their fault. It is a disease.
Look After Yourself
Don’t forget to look after yourself, you are important too. Find support through a support group. Reach out to family or friends. It’s difficult to carry the worry alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Make sure that you are eating properly, try exercise, yoga or maybe meditation for relaxation. Don’t forget to make time for yourself. You can’t support them if you’re not supported. That’s what we’re here for too
Don’t Give Up on Them
There will be times when your addict’s behaviour is hard to understand. They may say or do hurtful things which will hurt. Try to consider what they are going through too. Their brain is not functioning properly, they are not thinking straight. If they are not already getting help, try to explain in a calm manner that this is not acceptable behaviour and that they need to get help with controlling their behaviour and addiction.
They will probably make mistakes and they will probably never apologise. However, knowing that someone still cares about them is crucial as they are most likely in a place where they don’t feel worthy of love and will feel like no-one could possibly love them.
We are here to support you. Together we can beat their addiction. Let us try
An Addict will only accept help when they are ready; their life has got to be unacceptable to them to want to change it. It is usually unacceptable to everyone around them before it becomes unacceptable to them. Only when it’s unacceptable to them is change possible. Don’t feel guilty – it’s not your fault no matter what anyone tries to make you feel.