How to Help a Friend with an Addiction
I reckon that many of us are familiar with the idea of addiction. I don’t want to sound cliché, but you really do only have an idea unless you’ve dealt with a loved one who is suffering from addiction. (It should be noted that, even then, you still won’t fully get it if you’re not an addict.)
So when people are faced with this problem, they find it difficult to know how to help. Here’s our attempt at a quick guide.
Remember: you can’t force them to do anything
No matter how much love there is between you and the addict, you can’t make them do something just because you want it so badly. Trying to make someone do something usually involves a lot of nagging and heavy criticism. You should be avoiding this. Anything that comes across as judgment or superiority from you may only make matters worse. If this whole thing is starting to sound like handling live wires, then that’s intentional. You need to be very careful in this situation!
You need to work at maintaining trust between the two of you. One of the best ways of doing this is to avoid appearing hypocritical. Unfortunately for you, this may involve staying clean of drugs and alcohol yourself! It’s true that someone who does these things in moderation isn’t hypocritical if they tell an addict not to do those things. They’re not the same thing, after all. But it’s probably how your friend is going to see things. And how your friend sees things is going to be very important during this process!
Understand addiction psychology
I’m not saying you should train yourself to become as qualified as an addiction therapist. Nor am I saying that by doing a little psychology reading that you’ll be able to understand the ins and outs of your friend’s mindset. But by doing thorough research into addiction psychology, you may find yourself able to empathize with the addict a bit more. And empathy is absolutely crucial, here. Understanding why your friend does certain things can be very difficult. You should be open to researching these unusual mindsets.
Does it sound strange to reward someone for not continuing a life-threatening downward spiral? Sure. But addiction severely warps the addict’s idea of what ‘reward’ is. Giving them something to celebrate and mark milestones can help reintroduce them to a more normal form of reward. If they’re in an addiction recovery program, they may get tokens that help them mark time-based milestones. If not, you can always look into getting AA coins yourself.
“Tough love” and why you should avoid it
You may have heard about tough love. It’s being cruel to the addict in order to be kind. Examples include cutting them off from seeing you and your other loved ones in order to convince them to change their ways. This would make sense if addiction were more clearly a moral wrong, or if the addict had full agency within them. But neither of those are the case.
This kind of treatment is, essentially, further punishment. And, as we must all surely know by now, further punishment is way more likely to make matters much, much worse. It may have worked in some rare cases, but it’s a dangerous method that you should avoid.