Addiction is a difficult journey for anyone to have to go through, and watching a friend or family member struggle is never easy. Often, it can feel like watching someone you love going through a rough time leaves you helpless, especially in cases like addiction, where professionals (both medical and mental health) and support groups play such a prominent role in the healing process. But everyone needs a support system, and if you want to be a part of that support system, there are a few steps you can take to be the best friend, partner or family member you can be for them.
While it can be tough to get through addiction and treatment — it’s often a journey of many hurdles — you can be a helping hand for your loved one by considering their needs and being there for them however you can. With your encouragement and faith in them, your loved one will have a much easier time making it through.
1. Establish Trust
Sometimes, struggling with any mental health challenge — including addiction — can make a person feel alone, isolated and like they can’t trust the people around them. They may even reject your help if they feel like they can’t trust you fully. While building trust isn’t always the easiest thing to do, being sincere and sticking to your word are great ways to let your loved one know that you care for them and that you’re a safe person to rely on.
2. Be Compassionate
People aren’t always the kindest to those who are struggling with addiction. With the stigma around it and the way it may have affected people personally, some people feel the need to hide their addiction and engage in harmful behaviors alone, which can make things even worse. If you’re a part of someone’s support system, it’s important to make an effort to treat them with kindness and respect. Addiction doesn’t make someone a weak or bad person. Especially if you notice that your loved one has been missing kindness and compassion in their other relationships, bringing that into their life can make them feel more encouraged.
3. Educate Yourself
One of the best ways to be a part of someone’s support system is knowing as much as you can about what they’re going through so you can be there for them. Learn about how addiction works, and do your best to understand how their addiction works specifically. Listen to their experiences and be as understanding as you can. That way, they can feel less alone.
4. Don’t Blame Or Shame
In the same vein as compassion, it’s important to make sure you don’t shame your loved one for their addiction or blame them from the way that they’re struggling. While many still hold the common misconception that addiction is a choice, it’s actually a chronic brain disease that can happen to anyone. Addiction is a complex condition that is often physical in nature, and it’s never anybody’s choice to be addicted to something. Blaming someone for their addiction won’t do much besides break down the self esteem of your loved one, which will harm their progress more than it will help.
5. Don’t Enable
At the same time as blaming and shaming your loved one for their addiction is much less than helpful, enabling their behavior will only allow them to continue in their addiction without healing. Enabling is often defined as doing things for the person that they normally could do for themselves if they were sober. This might include assuming responsibilities for them or making excuses for them. Enabling can also come in the form of encouraging their habits either on purpose or by mistake. Providing them with the substance in question and saving them from consequences are both examples of this.
6. Help Them Get Professional Help
Sometimes, finding professional help can be more difficult than meets the eye, both emotionally and practically. Someone who struggles with addiction may need their support system to help them and encourage them along the way when finding a therapist, support group or professional program that’s right for them. Offer to go with them to their appointments and engage in conversations with them about what treatment methods might be best for them. Sometimes, bouncing things off of someone can provide a boost of confidence.
7. Practice Self Care
When offering support to someone else, it’s important to remember your own needs, too. You should never completely burn yourself out when offering to be there for someone, because it’s not sustainable. When you set boundaries and care for yourself, you’ll show up as a better friend, family member or partner when they really need you.
Lending Your Support
It’s never easy to watch someone you love go through a difficult time, but by educating yourself, showing compassion and supporting them through their journey, you’ll help them more than you may realize. A support system is one of the most important things to have around, and you have the chance to be a part of that — so you can lead them to a healthy recovery.