Do you have a loved one that is struggling with addiction?
It is often very difficult to talk to them about their struggles with addiction. In part because addiction involves a number of defense mechanisms that serve to protect the addict and their addictive behavior. It doesn’t matter if they are addicted to drugs or alcohol, the mechanisms act in the same way.
Often, when you confront a person struggling with addiction, about their addiction you will encounter techniques which they will use to avoid the attention falling on the real issue at hand, their addiction. These avoidance techniques include rationalisation, anger, avoidance, guilt, aggression and any other off-putting action which avoids a productive conversation about addiction recovery.
Talking to an addict about their addiction takes effort. It requires patience, courage, proper planning, timing, and honesty. Keep in mind that addiction is a disease and treating addiction most often needs the assistance of a professional. If you know someone close to you who is addicted to drugs or alcohol you are going to need help starting the conversation. Here are a few tips to get the ball rolling:
Say ‘I Love You’
Many studies have proven that addicts struggling with addiction are insecure. Pushing them away or using the tough love strategy can aggravate the problem/issue. Telling your loved one that you love them and that even if you don’t understand or agree with their choices, you will never give up on them, can give them that important confidence boost that they need to move forward and away from their addiction.
Note: At a certain point you may need to realise that walking away to save yourself may be the only option but you can still remind them that you love them and will always be there for them when they decide to accept help.
Remind them that it’s not their fault
Drug and alcohol addiction is a disease. No one wakes up wanting to become an addict and struggling with addiction. Sometimes an addict may believe that it is their fault and the self-blame intensifies. Talking to your loved one and explaining to them that you understand it is not their fault may go a long way towards convincing them to get help.
An addict may ask if they are responsible for their addiction. The answer to that question is a bit tricky; although they may not be responsible for being an addict, they are responsible for their recovery. The first step to recovery is to stop pointing fingers and start taking responsibility for the choices that allow the addiction to continue.
Remind them that they are not alone in struggling with addiction
Although you may never experience addiction or take a drug, it is important to show that you care about the person who has the addiction. Many addicts feel like they’re alone because they can’t talk to their friends and family. Make sure that they know you will listen without judging them. Small tokens of kindness can go a long way to pushing an addiction towards recovery.
Tell them that they have changed
Change can cause introspection, fire off a desire to renew a better path and can spur on a conversation about something which caused the change. Talking about change is one way to approach the subject of addiction, but it is important to tread carefully as the overuse of negativity will put your loved one in a defensive mood. Attempt to discuss how happy or friendly they used to be without comparing it to their current mood while struggling with addiction. Mention specific incidences where you were there for each other and build up a sense of nostalgia of the good times before the change.
Note: If you have to mention something negative be specific and bring up actual dates and events rather than being vague and highlighting that the addict is unreliable, undependable, or bad in any way. This helps to set the mood for your entire conversation and could prevent an unfocused argument that could stem from too much criticism.
Let them know that everyone needs a helping hand
There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Addiction affects millions of people struggling with addiction globally and here in South Africa and for all those addicts help may never be sought. Many of those people relapse because they fail to look for help. Talk with your loved one and tell them that getting help is the bravest thing they can do for themselves.
Remind them that things will get better
There is often this misconception about addiction that it is a hopeless world and there will never be a better place to look forward to. Addicts struggling with addiction will most likely have thought that at least once during their journey to recovery. Take time to reassure your loved one that things will eventually get better. Your words you can have a huge impact on their life. Addiction can be painful. By simply reminding them that things don’t have to always remain bad can be helpful and motivating.
Ask them if you can help
Perhaps your loved one may not accept your offer of help in the beginning, but offering to help can make it easier for them to focus on fighting their addiction. While you shouldn’t offer money to someone struggling with addiction, help may come in the form of taking care of a pet, helping them seek professional advice or treatment, or simply listening to them when they want to talk.
Note: You want to be ready and have resources available when they are ready to seek treatment.
Never believe that helping your loved one through addiction is all rainbows without thunderstorms. The hardest thing to face is often that you can’t help them. An addict has to choose to battle and beat their addiction on their own and while you can attempt to be there for them while they are struggling with addiction it can be frustrating and difficult because you have little control over their choices.
It may at times be painful to watch your loved one hurt but you can’t fix it for them. Addiction is the realisation by the addict and your best option is to offer the support they need to get through the recovery process.
Addicts recover one day at a time and so should you. Be strong, face the storm and overcome.
I believe in you.
For more information on how to help drug addicts or substance abuse and getting yourself into rehab to start a new life, call Houghton House now:
office hours: 011 787 9142
24/7 emergency help line: 079 770 7532