How to Help a Friend Whose Loved One Is Addicted
With the high rates of addiction across the United States, you’d be hard-pressed not to know anyone who has been affected by this nationwide problem. If you think you don’t know anyone who is connected to this issue, chances are you do but that you just aren’t aware of it. Addiction isn’t something that many people are willing to open up about right away because of the stigma that surrounds it. Because of this, there are countless people struggling every day without receiving much-needed support from friends.
While there is only so much a person can do to help from the outside, it is important to know that we can all make a difference. If you have a friend who has a loved one that is struggling with addiction, there are things you can do to help support your friend through this difficult time. It is important to understand that having a loved one who is an addict takes a heavy toll on a person’s life for many reasons. There is a constant worry that their loved one may overdose, die, or go to jail. Loving an addict is a rollercoaster of emotions, and sometimes the best thing we can to for those who are on that ride is to simply be a good friend.
That being said here are some of the ways you can help support a friend whose loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Even if you do not fully understand what your friend is going through, you can still do your best to be kind and supportive. Do what you can to help your friend while still maintaining your own healthy boundaries. Make a point not to make hurtful comments about addicts or their families because, as we all know, words can hurt, especially when they come from people we care about.
Lend a shoulder to cry on.
Seeing a loved one trapped in active addiction is a heartbreaking experience. It is difficult to watch someone you love turn into someone you can hardly recognize. Sometimes the best thing you can do as a friend is to simply be there to listen. Providing a safe space for your friend to let it all out and cry may not seem like a lot, but it can certainly make all the difference.
Hold back on expressing judgment.
It can be all too easy to pass judgment on situations when you are on the outside looking in. Maybe you think your friend is being too soft on the person who has the addiction or maybe you think they should just cut them off altogether. While you are certainly entitled to your own opinions unless you are directly asked for them, it is usually best to keep it to yourself. Your friend probably already knows these things on some level, your job as their friend is to be supportive, not judgmental.
Understand that it may be a long journey.
At some point, you will probably get tired of hearing your friend talk about addiction, but please understand that they are probably tired of talking about it as well. Addiction can be a long journey, and until the person with the addiction is willing to get the help that they need to get better, things will probably continue to be difficult for your friend. Try to understand that your friend will probably be dealing with this for some time, and so if you are willing to be there for them, you will probably be hearing about it for a while.
Be a person they can trust and confide in.
Many people have a hard time talking to others about addiction because of the social stigma that surrounds this issue. If your friend is trusting you enough to tell you about these sorts of things, then it is important that you maintain their trust and not talk about it to other people.
Avoid providing unsolicited advice.
Everyone knows at least one person who is a “know it all” and provides unsolicited advice. When it comes to this situation, don’t be that person. Now, if your friend directly asks for your advice, by all means, give it to them. If they are at a point where they need professional help then try to suggest they look for it in a loving way. If the person is in some sort of physical danger or experiencing some form of abuse then you should certainly speak up and let them know you are concerned. Other than that, it is better to just be there for them than trying to tell them what to do.
Offer to help when you are able.
If your friend’s loved one decides to go to an addiction treatment program they may need help with taking care of things around the house, babysitting from time to time and feeding pets. If you are in a position where you are able to do this without putting yourself out, then, by all means, do what you can to help. Sometimes we all need a little extra help from our friends in order to get by.
Seek professional help.
Addiction is a tricky thing and not something that everyone is prepared to deal with. Thankfully there are plenty of resources available to those who are willing to reach out for them. Sometimes the best thing that can be done is to seek guidance from a caring professional who has dealt with similar situations countless times before. By speaking with an addiction treatment professional, you will be able to gain a better understanding of addiction and what you can do to help make a difference in your particular situation.
Be the friend that you would want to have.
Perhaps the easiest way to be a good friend to someone who is in this situation is to simply be the type of friend that you would want to have if it were you. No one wants a friend that is constantly judging them or breaking trust. Life isn’t always easy, but what helps to make adverse moments more tolerable is having a reliable friend to lean on when the going gets tough.