How to Help Someone Struggling with Addiction

Have you ever loved an addict? Maybe an intimate partner or spouse? A sibling? What about a parent or a child? You may remember how happy they used to be. How they could light up a room just by walking into it. How just being around them made you feel a little better. And then they changed. And it likely wasn’t overnight. You probably noticed them behaving in a way that was out of the ordinary. Something about them just wasn’t quite right. And then you found out the truth – this person you love is an addict. And they need help. You know they need help. So what can you do? How can you help someone struggling with an addiction?

You Can Only Control Yourself

You might be familiar with what’s called the “Serenity Prayer.” It usually goes something like, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” It’s commonly attributed to the Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. But whether or not you are a person of faith isn’t relevant. What is relevant is the genuine and practical wisdom in that prayer. That serenity prayer isn’t just for addicts – it’s also very helpful for the people that love them through their struggle.

There’s a tremendous amount of freedom that comes from realizing that we can’t control other people. We can beg, we can threaten, and we may even try force. But ultimately, we only control our own thoughts and actions. Your loved one’s choices are their own. Their choices may hurt you; they may cause you grief. But you are only responsible for loving and supporting them, not fixing or curing them. That’s an unfair responsibility to put on yourself. You control you, and they control them.

Practice Active Listening

Most people don’t really know how to listen. Especially in a modern world with so many digital distractions. Listening is a skill. And like any other skill, it takes practice to do it well. Getting your loved one to open up about their addiction involves actively listening to them. To actively listen, first look at your loved one when they speak. Make solid eye contact, and communicate with body language. Nod, and give verbal affirmations that you understand them. Say things like, “I see,” “uh huh,” or “go on.” Focus not on their words, but on what’s underneath their words. The underlying thoughts and feelings below their actual words. When they finish, repeat back to them, in your own words, your understanding of what they have said. Start with something like, “Let me make sure I understand…” or, “So it sounds like you’re saying…”

Establish Trust

Active listening can help you establish trust with your loved one. If they trust you, they might be more inclined to follow your lead regarding treatment. Trust is elemental in your loved one’s recovery. If you say you’ll do something for them, then do it. If you make an agreement, then keep it. The life of an addict can be very unstable. Their trust in you might provide what little stability their lives have.

If someone you love is struggling with addiction, call Recovery By The Sea. Call 877-207-5033 now.