Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain. Until we accept this definition, we cannot fully understand the plight of recovery. As loved ones, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in our own perspective of recovery that we neglect to remember it’s not our battle.
Don’t know how to help a friend with addiction? Well, it takes more than kind words. It requires patience, determination, and conviction. And in many cases, overcoming an addiction takes teamwork. But what does that mean?
Where to Begin?
Helping an addict can be very challenging, especially if that person is a relative or friend. There’s an urgency, sometimes a fear, to usher the process along to a point that is comfortable for everyone else. But it is of the utmost importance to stop and examine that approach.
Though addiction has many telling symptoms, the recovery process is different for every person and should be treated as such. However, there are some best practices you can consider along the way:
It Is Not Your Battle
This is one of the more challenging obstacles to tackle. You must always remember that this is not your battle. Helping a friend or loved one overcome an addiction may be arduous, but the real victories must come from the addict. And those victories come from learning.
While you may want to protect your loved one, they need to learn from their actions. They need to make mistakes — within reason — and learn from the consequences. Remember, this is only prudent when the action does not put them or someone else in serious danger.
There Must Be Trust
No two ways about it — there must be trust. If you want to help someone overcome an addiction, you will need to earn their trust. Keep your expectations realistic. Avoid criticism, lecturing, abusive language, and yelling. The best way to maintain trust is through even-keel communication and patience.
Communication Is Key
Communicating with an addict is about listening. When you talk, do you listen to how they feel? Are you communicating your own feelings in a way that is not critical or aggressive? Are you on the same page about expectations? Do you feel heard as well? Keep these questions in mind when you approach more difficult conversations.
Take Care of Yourself
You will need to take care of your emotional and mental health in order to fully assist a recovering addict. The road to recovery can be long and challenging, and this can take a toll on the loved ones and friends, who are trying to help an addict. Remember to take a step back and give yourself time to recuperate.
Keep an Open Mind
This is a tough one. Your loved one may admit to things that you are doing that further their addiction. This can be very hard to hear. Try to bear in mind that they may have a point, and be open to changing your behavior/attitude (within reason).
Influence Vs. Control
Addiction is a serious medical condition. It is characterized by a compulsion to consume. It is not a choice. Knowing the difference can help you better understand the perspective of a struggling addict. This will come in handy when you are learning how to control your attitude if and when your addict struggles or relapses. The brain of an addict has been altered tremendously to respond to cravings. Breaking this habit takes time and will not be done through censure.
The Dangers of Codependency
Codependency refers to relationships, in this case, spouses, children, and intimate partners, who unwittingly perpetuate a problem. Signs of this include:
- Taking responsibility for an addict’s behavior
- Valuing the addict’s needs and feelings over your own
- Staying with a loved one for fear of what they might do if you leave
- Not setting limitations
- Giving in to every request, thinking it will help your loved one (even when you don’t want to)
Check your behavior and actions for signs of codependency. The last thing you’ll want to do is realize you’ve been perpetuating your loved one’s destructive behavior.
It can be difficult to know how to help an addict. If you have a friend or loved one struggling with addiction, please encourage them to seek professional help. In the meantime, follow the aforementioned guidelines to assist your loved one in their recovery.
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