How to Help a Loved One Through Addiction 

Witnessing a loved one struggling with addiction can be confusing, painful, and frustrating. When someone is dependent on drugs or alcohol it can be alarming to see the changes in their behavior or appearance as a result of the abuse. In consequence, this can leave those closest to them feeling helpless or even angry at the situation. While the recovery process is a personal journey and a responsibility left primarily to the person going through an addiction, it can be helpful to know the best strategies for being supportive especially if matters escalate.

Is It Necessary to Intervene?

With the work and stress that come with helping someone struggling from addiction, some may question if their personal contributions will be helpful or harmful to the situation. Because people with addictions can become isolated and engaged in risky behaviors, it may be necessary to intervene in order to avoid harmful consequences. These can include worsening existing health issues, injury to self or others, or even death. Having a support system of people that can be trusted can also increase the chances of successfully overcoming addiction.

How Can You Help While Respecting Boundaries at the Same Time?

Though it may be difficult to see the deterioration of a loved one, it is important to recognize what can be controlled by an outsider and what cannot. If helping someone causes an excessive financial burden, stress, conflicts, or poses a physical danger to anyone, it may be necessary to welcome the help of others including friends, family, or even professional intervention. Providing support without enabling destructive behavior can also be a helpful strategy to use. Whereas a steady stream of unconditional financial support may not be used for its intended purpose, other supporting actions such as aiding in transportation to-and-from therapy may be more practical. Having realistic expectations about what can and cannot be done can also encourage friends and family to participate in activities that aid recovery efforts.

How Does Research Help?

Though recovery is a highly individualized process, research can be useful for anyone trying to support someone with an addiction. For example, understanding that Dual Diagnosis is a possibility and the situation may be treated as such can be more effective than using strategies meant for a single diagnosis. Since addiction can be a strategy to cope with other underlying mental conditions such as anxiety, phobias, personality disorders, or PTSD, it is important to understand how these diagnoses can trigger or worsen the abuse of substances and should not be overlooked. Some methods for doing this include searching reputable organizations dedicated to addiction recovery, picking up pamphlets at your nearest clinic, or speaking to a professional.

Is Professional Advice Necessary?

Regardless of how well a loved one is acquainted with someone going through addiction, it may be difficult to recognize the person under the influence and how to decide what initial steps to take. By having the support of a professional, loved ones can better understand the diagnosis and receive guidance on what to do next to best help someone. When the underlying causes of addiction are more complex, it may require the help of an expert to unpack it and create an effective plan of action.


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