It can be easy to forget that drug and alcohol addiction impacts friends and families as well as the addict. While many addicts struggle with the physical effects of drug or alcohol abuse and difficult emotions stemming from mental health issues, friends and families may struggle with:
• Guilt at not being able to keep the addict from using drugs or alcohol
• Stress from a deteriorating relationship with the addict
• Financial strain related to supporting the addict
For those of you who know a drug or alcohol addict in denial, it can be tempting to add hopelessness to the list. But the good news is there is hope – and you can act to help someone you love to get better.
How to Help an Addict Who You Believe is in Denial
The first thing you need to understand is that you cannot control or cure your loved one’s addiction. That part is up to him or her. But when the time comes to address someone’s addiction, here’s how you can help the addict:
- Approach the conversation with sympathy.
It can be tempting to pass judgement on your loved one’s behavior. But as we’ll discuss shortly, that tactic can be counterproductive. Instead, keep in mind that you’re having this conversation because you’re genuinely concerned about your loved one’s health and safety. Explain that you want to have the conversation because value your relationship with the person, and set the expectation that the addict will not be alone during the recovery process.
- Foster dialog.
Don’t be surprised if you receive a defensive or combative response to your concerns. If or when this happens, it may be tempting to lecture the person on their behavior. This can appear judgmental to the addict, which may lead to more defensive or combative behavior that doesn’t help anybody. If you find yourself in a situation where productive dialog is unlikely, do whatever you can to stay composed. Count to ten, take several deep breaths, and promptly end the conversation. Set the expectation that the talk with resume once everyone has calmed down. Remember, now is not the time to argue. You want to make progress, and productive dialog is the way to do it!
- Choose the right time and place.
Remember that this is a sensitive topic, so don’t bring it up on a whim or in an unfamiliar location. Wait for a time when the addict is most likely to be sober. You should also find a place that feels neutral where both of you are comfortable.
If someone you care about is struggling with addiction, remember that you can take steps to help! And when your loved one is ready to take the next step toward recovery, Footprints is just a phone call away.