When a friend needs addiction help, it can be challenging on where to start. You may feel overwhelmed about what you can do to help your friend. While it is not an easy road to walk, those who suffer from addiction are more likely to experience long-term recovery when a friend is willing to support them throughout the process.
In reading this article, you are already one step into that journey of helping your friend. Keep in mind that the act of helping a friend reach a sober life is not entirely on your shoulders. Being there for a friend is one aspect that can help them recover, and should be paired with resources and services designed to treat drug addiction.
Chances are, you have experienced hurt or uncertainty with your friend who is going through drug addiction. The important thing to recognize is that recovery will not happen overnight, or even over a couple of months. It is a process that takes time, patience, and trust.
You are not on this journey alone, which is why we have outlined a few helpful ways you can help an addicted friend and be an active support during their recovery.
Understand Their Personal Experience With Drug Addiction
There are many factors that play a role in drug addiction, including family history or traumatic experiences. Listening to your friend’s personal experiences can help you empathize with what they are going through.
They have more than likely experienced judgments about their decisions, which has further spiraled mental health issues surrounding drug abuse. By having a friend they trust listen to their worries and concerns about the road to sobriety, you can better meet them where they are at for recovery.
Factors that play a role in drug addiction often are:
- Family history with addiction
- Drug abuse at an early age
- Abuse or traumatic experiences
- Mental health disorders
- Method of drug abuse, such as injection or smoking
Recognize Drug Abuse Symptoms
Before having a conversation with your friend, learn to recognize the symptoms of drug abuse. Knowing how symptoms play a role in their response can help you understand their reactions when you reach out to offer help.
Drug abuse symptoms can include:
- Mood Swings
- A sudden change in normal behavior
- Trouble remembering things
- Stealing money or valuables to pay for drugs
- Lying about substance use
- Lashing out if questioned about drug use
- Neglected hygiene and personal appearance
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Issues at work, or loss of employment
- Missing school, or dropping out
- Lack of motivation
- Poor energy
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
- A shift in sleep patterns
- Sudden requests for money or unusual spending habits
- Impaired or unstable coordination
- Sudden weight loss or gain
If your friend is experiencing any of the above symptoms, they may say hurtful things while under the influence or participate in behavior that puts others at harm. Your degree of influence and approach to helping them can impact their ability to see a pathway towards receiving drug abuse help.
Rather than seeking to control their behavior, you can gather a group of friends and family to show support and positively influence their choices. Whether you want to seek a professional to help with an intervention or want to offer treatment center options, you can approach your friend with empathy first.
Addiction is not a choice, and it can affect how a friend reacts and behaves when being offered help. By showing social support without judgment, your friend may be more receptive to potential options for sober living.
Join A Support Group For You
Looking after yourself is just as important as looking after your friend who is experiencing addiction. At times, it may be exhausting and overwhelming to be a support when a friend is wrestling through the initial stages of trying to stay sober.
There are many resources for you to receive support while being there for your friend. With groups like Al-Anon and Naranon, you can listen to other’s stories and learn how to be the best support you can without putting yourself in harm’s way.
Be Mindful of Codependency
Codependency is nearly untraceable when you are close to a friend. Just as your friend has habits with addiction, chances are you have also developed habitual behaviors as a response to your friend’s addiction.
Codependency hinders recovery by fostering behavioral habits and taking the blame for what your addicted friend does. Behavioral habits can show up as:
- Staying in a friendship to avoid abandonment, such as sheltering a friend or giving money in order to keep the friendship
- Trouble sharing honest feelings where you focus more on “fixing” your friend rather than recognize your own emotions and responses to the situation
- Lack of ability to set boundaries and saying yes to everything, even when it makes you uncomfortable
- Always putting your friend first before your own needs and neglecting yourself
- Making excuses for them by covering up for them or creating reasons why they are behaving a certain way
Codependency is a two-way street that impacts one another. If you feel you are experiencing a codependent friendship, then it is important for both of you to seek professional help to overcome the emotional trauma connected to it.
Search For Helpful Resources
Part of helping a friend is finding the right resources that can help them through addiction. Whether you are looking into potential rehab facilities or want to be better informed about what support groups are available, there are many resources that can assist in helping your addicted friend.
Look For Local Treatment Centers
A local treatment center can aid the recovery process by managing withdrawal symptoms and offering access to group and individualized therapy. Depending on the facility, it may offer inpatient or outpatient care programs, as well as partial hospitalization. By knowing what is available in your area, you can get in touch to inquire about resources to better support your friend.
Find Support For Potential Relapses
Relapsing is often part of the recovery process and can feel draining on friendships. With the support of a rehab facility, you can ensure your friend receives much needed mental and physical support during a relapse. If you know who to contact in case of a relapse, your friend will have a higher chance of recovering without further complications.
Addiction is not a choice
Addiction is now recognized as a disease, and not as a choice. While in some circumstances it can feel like your friend is choosing their addiction over anything else, it stems from a place of compulsion that is outside their control.
Recruiting professional services that help with sober living gives your friend the space and resources they need to navigate the road towards recovery. With your support, they have a higher chance of staying sober for longer and living a life without addiction in control.
How To Help Long-Term Recovery
Addiction is a long-term recovery process. The aspects surrounding a person who is experiencing drug addiction affects their ability to stay sober. Supporting your friend can take on different roles throughout the process, but here are ways you can start.
Encourage Dialogue With Your Friend
In some cases, a friend may not realize their addiction is an issue. They may not recognize the need for drug abuse help if addiction has become normalized in their life. If that is the case, it becomes harder for them to recognize how it is negatively affecting themselves and the lives around them. Encourage an open conversation with them about what is affecting their emotions and actions.
Be Honest About Your Concerns
If you are experiencing codependency issues, being honest about your concerns may come as one of the harder aspects of helping your friend. If you are worried about their reaction, ask other trusted friends or concerned family members to be a part of the conversation. Try not to use emotional appeals as leverage, as it can come off as a guilt-trip or threat. Focus on the positive aspects of recovery and how it can benefit their life for the better.
If your friend has made a decision about addiction help, choose to be actively involved in that process. Ask how you can be a part of that journey in a way that does not feel like it is negatively impacting your own life. Whether it is supporting them in therapy, or checking up on them at the facility, you have the ability to positively aid their recovery process.
For anyone experiencing addiction, having a trusted friend is a vital piece of their long term recovery. The role you play in looking after a friend takes patience, empathy, and the ability to look after yourself too. Remember that even when it feels exhausting or overwhelming, you are making an important difference in your friend’s life that will positively impact their future.
By being supportive throughout the process, you can help an addicted friend lead the sober life they want to, for healthier living and a stronger friendship in the future.