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The Help You Can Give

How to Help a Loved One with an Addiction

Addiction is a terrible disease that affects not only the person suffering from it, but also that person’s family, friends, and other loved ones. If one of your family members, friends, or other loved ones is dealing with an addiction or moving toward recovery, you probably want to help.

Every addict is an individual, so we cannot promise that we can give you the perfect advice to help your friend or loved one. We can, however, give you some general guidelines and ideas that can get you started.

Don’t Go It Alone

Addiction can be a terribly isolating disease. It’s not a condition like cancer, where others are eager to help in any way they can. If one of your family members or friends is battling an addiction, your instinct might be to hide and minimize the problem.

Don’t. There are plenty of places where you can go for safe, anonymous help, whether you’re looking for intervention strategies or simply a sympathetic ear. Here are some national organizations for the family members and friends of addicts:

Give Love & Support

A person starting their recovery often has to deal with a mounting series of problems: career difficulties, medical issues, broken relationships, possibly even legal troubles. The best thing you can do for your family or friend is be there for them during this difficult time.

If the addict in your life is attempting to recover, do your best to provide love and support to them. Help them out in material ways if you can, and give whatever emotional support you are able to provide. The love and support of friends and family members can be part of what spurs an addict to keep going through a difficult recovery.

Set Firm Boundaries – and Enforce Them

Even as you give your friend or family member support, you have to prioritize your needs first. There is a clear line between supportive behavior and enabling behavior. Supportive behavior helps an addict to get back on his or her feet without endangering the health (mental or physical), safety, and happiness of others. Enabling behavior allows the addict to continue on their destructive path, possibly putting others at risk.

Whether a specific behavior is supportive or enabling depends on the context. Offering an addict a spare bedroom and a safe home, for instance, may be supportive in some contexts and enabling in others. What makes the difference is setting clear boundaries and enforcing them. By requiring that the addict meet certain criteria – and by not prioritizing their needs, desires, and destructive behavior over your right to enjoy a peaceful and substance-free life – you can provide support without enabling destructive behavior.

Having a friend or loved one suffer from addiction is never easy. Choosing to help that addict also isn’t easy. But with the right mindset, you can help your friend, family member, or loved one get on the road to recovery – and that can make all the difference.