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Addiction is extremely common, with about half of all Americans having a friend or family member with a current or past substance use disorder.1 Despite it being a common occurrence, many people don’t know how to deal with an addicted person.
Since addiction takes a toll on all those involved (not just the drug or alcohol abuser) you may find yourself struggling emotionally as you try to grapple with the behaviors of your loved one. Although it may feel impossible some days, you should know that you’re not alone and many other people also face the same challenge.
In this blog, we will share some helpful tips on how to deal with addicted friends. Although there’s no simple solution, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from emotional and physical harm while also offering your support and help.
Take care of yourself first.
It’s easy to forget about your own health and well-being when you’re consumed with caring for a close friend who is addicted. No one wants to watch a loved one suffer, but at the same time, you can’t help a friend if you aren’t taking care of yourself. If you want to be able to help your friend, your personal well-being should be your first priority.2
Some people with addicted friends also fall into the trap of believing they can use drugs or alcohol with an addicted friend, but this often leads to additional substance abuse problems. Instead, remember that you are only responsible for your behavior and you can’t control someone else’s.
If a friend is putting pressure on you to use drugs or alcohol or is abusing you emotionally or physically, you may need to get out of the situation permanently or find professional support.
Express your concern in a respectful and caring way.
If you are concerned about a friend’s alcohol consumption or drug use, you may choose to voice your concern directly with them. However, if you want to do so in an impactful way, it’s ideal to avoid arguing, blaming, accusing, or threatening in the process. Keeping a neutral attitude and demeanor is best.
Your friend may respond in a variety of ways, including being defensive, offended, or upset. It may help to communicate your message positively, highlighting the fact that addiction is a treatable condition that they can overcome with professional help.
As you express your concern for your friend in a loving way, encourage him or her to seek help but don’t push. Genuine and lasting change has to be a personal decision that he or she is ready to make and his or her timing may not always line up with yours.
If, after you express your concerns about your friend’s substance abuse, he or she tries to dissuade you that you’re wrong, stand firm in what you know to be true. If your relationship with your friend is suffering as a result of substance abuse, don’t let them convince you otherwise. It’s common for addicted people to be resistant to the idea that they need help and unfortunately, there is always the chance that your friend will resent you for bringing the issue up.
When you confront your friend about his or her substance abuse, you may also want to set conditions for what you will or won’t do if he or she refuses to get help. For example, you may tell your friend that you won’t cover for him anymore when he misses work after a night of binge drinking. Or, you may decide to stop lending your friend money for rent when she spends all hers on drugs.
Setting conditions like these is not the same as threatening your friend into getting help. Rather, you are simply setting boundaries for yourself that are intended to protect your own well-being and dignity. However, if you establish these boundaries, you must also be willing to stick to them when a situation arises.
Offer to help your friend find a treatment program
If your friend is open to it, you may also want to offer your help to find a treatment program, as it can be a daunting and overwhelming process for someone who has never been to rehab. As you do your research, make sure to ask your friend lots of questions to determine what type of program he or she may be most likely to entertain and complete.
Unfortunately, you can’t expect your friend to go to rehab immediately, as this is not always the case. Additionally, assuming that drug rehab will “cure” your friend of his or her addiction is dangerous, as addiction recovery is a long-term process that requires ongoing maintenance, like other chronic diseases.
Provide support and get support for yourself.
If you can continue being a supportive figure in your friend’s life, he or she will need it! Addiction recovery is often a difficult and long process that is full of challenges but having a close friend who is supportive of their decision to get sober can make all the difference. In fact, support from family and friends is one of the main determining factors of sustained long-term sobriety.3 So as long as it’s safe and healthy for you to stand by your addicted friend, he or she will have a greater chance of turning things around.
To continue providing support, you will also need someone backing you up too! Attending Al-Anon meetings is a great way to connect with other individuals with addicted loved ones and engage in meaningful and encouraging discussions. You may also want to consider meeting with a counselor one-on-one for additional support.
Dealing with an addicted friend is never easy, but there is always hope for healing and recovery no matter how far gone you think they may be. If you’d like to get more information about drug detox, rehab, and sober living programs for a friend or family member, please call Nova Recovery Center at (512) 605-2955 today. We are happy to help.