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How to Help a Loved One With Addiction

Ken Smith
Ken Smith
April 9, 2019

Recognizing the signs of addiction is a crucial first step to help a loved one who is struggling with addiction. Once you have identified the addiction, it’s time to take action.  However, it isn’t time to barge in and cause a scene by berating your loved one. That would be counter-productive, and even potentially dangerous. Instead, follow the advice below on how to help a loved one with addiction. If you need more help or have additional questions, please reach out to us or your nearest drug treatment center.

 

One-on-One Interactions

Be sure to approach the person quietly and with great sincerity regarding their addiction. This strategy shows that you truly care about that person, and want to help them get through their issues. This strategy is far less intimidating than a full-on intervention, which can send an addict further down their spiral.

 

Regarding interventions: our experience is that successful interventions require planning, organization, and execution under the direction of a professional, and are best considered when one’s denial is entrenched and unresponsive to other efforts and strategies.

 

A smart way to approach this plan is to strategically plan a time that you can be alone together, free of distractions and interruptions. As with any drug or alcohol addiction, the sooner the better.

 

Make It About You

Casting blame and shaming your loved one will do more harm than good. Instead, a better approach is to center the conversation around you. Share your feelings, thoughts and solutions in a calm, meticulous manner.

 

Use more “I” statements than “you” declarations. Your goal is to show the person that their actions affect others – people they do still care about, even with their addiction. No matter what the person’s behavior has been like, it’s important to remember that the one you are trying to help is not a bad person.

 

Unforeseen Circumstances

Unfortunately, there is no “cookie-cutter” solution as addiction affects everyone differently. There may be times in which offering to help can result in trying situations.

Most of the time, an addict will be in denial of their drug or alcohol abuse. They’ve kept it hidden and don’t believe they are affecting anyone, including themselves. In these cases, try bringing up specific behaviors or incidents in which they have caused harm (physical, emotional, financial, etc) to others. Emphasize that their actions do have consequences.

It’s not uncommon for addicts to become visibly upset and angry when confronted about their drug or alcohol abuse. In these cases, it is best to remain as calm as possible. Remember, you’re not there to berate them; you’re there to help them. By remaining calm and sincere, you’ll show your loved one that you are only trying to assist them in overcoming their addiction. Compassion will have a much stronger result than arguing.

 

Your loved one may or may not be receptive to sharing their thoughts or feelings on their addiction. This may be caused by a sense of inner denial, shame, depression or more. Reiterate the fact that you are there for them. Remain supportive and maintain contact, even if they push you away at first. Expressing your concern for them is much better than simply walking away.

If your loved one is receptive to hearing your thoughts and concerns, ask if they would be willing to seek professional help. Rehab may sound like a scary word, but death is even scarier. Drug treatment centers and addiction support facilities create an environment that allows addicts to overcome their physical and emotional issues.

 

Please note that, whereas most if not all of our older blog posts do not have appropriate, non-stigmatizing language – i.e., substance use disorder in place of addiction and/or chemical dependency –  all subsequent posts do and will retain language that avoids propagating negative stereotypes and biases through the use of slang and idioms.

Likewise, we have pledged to follow the guidelines set forth by the Office of National Drug Control Policy and that are conceptually and in general endorsed by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASA), the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and other federal and state entities governing and regulating substance use disorder. We will therefore now use person-first language that respects the worth and dignity of all people; that focuses on the medical as well as clinical nature of substance use disorders and treatment; and that promotes the recovery process.

Ken Smith

Clinical Director

Kenneth Smith, LCSW, QMHP, Clinical Director, joined Tully Hill Chemical Dependency Treatment Center in January 2009. Mr. Smith most recently served as the Clinical Director for the Alcohol and Drug Council of Tompkins County. He was previously employed at Tioga County Department of Mental Hygiene as the Clinical Supervisor for Alcohol and Drug Services. Mr. Smith completed his Bachelor of Science in Social Work at Cornell University and completed his Master of Social Work degree at Syracuse University. Mr. Smith is an OASAS certified dual diagnosis treatment provider.