Drug addictions and substance abuse are rampant in today’s society – and it’s no longer something that only impoverished and crime-ridden communities deal with. From siblings and friends to coworkers and teammates, we’re all exposed to people with addiction on a daily basis and it’s imperative that we understand how to be supportive.
If you’ve been dealing with someone who suffers from an addiction, then you know how all-encompassing their behavior can be.
“When an individual is struggling with addiction, families also bear the consequences of the disease,” American Addiction Centers explains. “As a result, families often experience a poor quality of life financially, psychologically and spiritually, and take on enabling and/or codependent behavior.”
That’s why you have to step in and take action. It’s not just one person being affected – it’s a whole group of people. Here are a few practical ways you can be supportive.
1. Educate Yourself
Most of us are wholly uneducated when it comes to addiction. This isn’t anything to feel embarrassed about, but simply means you haven’t had much experience with the issue in your own life. Well, before you confront and offer your support to a loved one, it’s important that you educate yourself and learn everything you can about the science behind addiction.
The biggest thing you need to understand is that addiction isn’t voluntary. Sure, people make stupid mistakes that put themselves in compromising situations, but addiction physically reconstructs the brain and hardwires individuals to behave in certain ways. Once you truly understand this, you’ll begin to see your loved one differently.
2. Offer Genuine Support
There are two types of support: compulsory support and genuine support. Compulsory support is the type of support that people offer when they feel like they have to say or do something. For example, if you catch your friend in the act of using drugs, then you feel like you have to say something to them.
Genuine support, on the other hand, is the type of support that comes from the heart. Genuine support is the overflow of your own personal convictions and your love for the affected individual. While it may not seem much different from your perspective, addicts can feel the difference between compulsory and genuine support – and are much likelier to respond to the latter.
3. Be Consistent (But Not Overbearing)
You can’t expect an addict to drop what they’re doing and commit to sobriety after one conversation. If you’ve done a good job of educating yourself on the science of addiction, you know this is true.
With that being said, the key to supporting a loved one in their bout with addiction is to be consistent without being overbearing. This means regularly having conversations with them while knowing when to back away and give them space.
4. Support the Recovery Process
After getting a loved one to attend a recovery program, it can feel like your job is finished. Unfortunately, it’s not. Recovery is an ongoing process and you must stand with them every step of the way.
“Once your friend or family member is receiving treatment, or going to meetings, remain involved,” explains the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. “While maintaining your own commitment to getting help for yourself, continue to support their participation in ongoing care, meetings and recovery support groups. Continue to show that you are concerned about their successful long-term recovery.”
Addiction is Hard on Everyone
While it’s easy to abandon and remove yourself from the situation, remember that addiction is a very real disease and must be treated as such. You owe it to your loved one to support them through their addiction.
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