10 Ways to Support Someone With an Alcohol or Drug Addiction

Alcohol or drug addiction can be a very difficult thing to overcome. It can be challenging for the person with the addiction, but it can also be hard for their friends and family members. As many of you may know, I work in the recovery field and have personal experience supporting someone with addiction, a severe substance use disorder (SUD). Substance use disorder is a complex condition where an individual lacks control of their substance use. If you are like me and want to support someone struggling with addiction, then you want to do whatever you can to be there for them. Below I’ve highlighted ten ways to support someone with a drug or alcohol addiction.

1) Offer an Unconditional Listening Ear:

One of the most important ways to support someone with an alcohol or drug addiction is to provide an unconditional listening ear. The stigma around addiction is enormous, so listening without judgment or criticism and with complete acceptance is so important. It also allows the person to feel safe and supported without fear of being judged or criticized.

This listening also helps a person share their feelings, thoughts, and experiences openly and honestly and may allow you to gain increased understanding. This support can be especially beneficial when helping people break down barriers they may have built up around themselves while struggling with addiction.

2) Educate Yourself:

Take time to learn about drug addiction, how it affects people and appropriate treatment options. This knowledge will help you understand what your loved one is going through and provide insight into how best to support them.

Addiction is complicated; no two experiences are alike. While there are common treatment elements for all substances, there are differences. By educating yourself on the type of addiction your loved one is facing, you will be in a better position to understand which resources to seek out. From there, you can find appropriate therapy, support groups, and other treatment options tailored to the type of addiction faced.

3) Be Patient and Understanding:

When supporting someone with drug addiction, it is essential to be patient and understanding. No person struggling with addiction wants to hurt their loved ones. It may help to remember that addiction results from a combination of biological and environmental factors, not just choices. When a loved one has engaged in chronic drug use, their brain circuitry and chemistry are altered, which drives their behavior.

A person struggling with addiction should be treated with the same patience, understanding, and lack of judgment as someone who is facing a chronic illness because it is a chronic illness.  

Encourage them to seek professional help. Be patient with them as they work on overcoming the addiction; recognize that this is a lifelong process.

4) Encourage Healthy Activities:

Encouraging healthy activities is another way to support a person with alcohol and drug addiction. Instead of doing things that might trigger their addiction, suggest actions that promote physical and emotional well-being, such as going for walks, exercising, listening to music, cooking, writing in a journal, etc.

These activities can help take the person’s mind off the substance and give them something positive and productive to do. They also help build healthy habits that replace those associated with substance use.

Encourage your loved one to participate in activities that involve other people, such as joining a support group or attending an event. This helps build positive relationships and provides opportunities to avoid unhealthy substances.

5) Stay Positive:

When supporting someone with an alcohol or drug addiction, it is important to stay positive and provide encouragement. Even small, supportive gestures can go a long way in providing hope for recovery.

Addiction recovery is a slow process often measured in minutes, hours, and days. Therefore, it is essential to recognize and celebrate even the most minor successes. Celebrating these moments reinforces their accomplishments and helps them continue working toward long-term recovery. Ultimately, staying positive and optimistic is essential in supporting someone with an alcohol or drug addiction.

6) Avoid Unhelpful Behaviors:

It is important to avoid unhelpful behaviors when supporting someone with drug addiction. These behaviors can include enabling, criticizing, judgmentalism, and lecturing. Enabling behavior occurs when someone allows the addicted person to continue in their destructive behaviors without consequence.

Enabling, intentional or not, is perhaps the most challenging perspective of supporting someone battling addiction; there is a delicate balance between being supportive and enabling. This type of behavior can be dangerous as it reinforces destructive habits and sends the wrong message that these behaviors are okay. Sometimes it is necessary to seek professional support to understand how to set boundaries to ensure you are supportive but not enabling. Getting this additional support for yourself will help reduce stress and can be viewed as a form of self-care.

Criticizing and judgmentalism are also unhelpful as they create an environment of negativity that does not encourage growth or change. Ultimately, avoiding unhelpful behaviors is essential for creating a positive and supportive environment for those struggling with addiction.

7. Seek Therapy:

Seeking therapy for your drug-addicted loved one can be a powerful tool to include in your support plan. Working with an experienced therapist can provide insight into underlying issues that may have contributed to their addiction and teach them coping strategies to help manage stress and triggers. Therapy should be tailored to the loved one’s needs, such as family therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), or motivational enhancement therapy (MET).

Additionally, engaging in activities outside of traditional therapy, such as art or music therapies, can help them express themselves in a safe environment. Finally, it is important to remember that recovery is an ongoing process, and it is vital for family members and loved ones to remain supportive and encouraging throughout the journey.

8. Use Community Resources:

There are many resources available in the community that can provide support for alcohol and drug addiction. These include treatment centers, mental health services, support groups, and organizations dedicated to helping those in recovery. Take advantage of these resources to help your loved one with their recovery journey and to support you as you support them.

9. Practice Self-Care:

Practicing self-care is integral to supporting someone with alcohol and drug addiction. This means taking the time to care for your mental and physical health and setting healthy boundaries with the addicted person. In addition, it is essential to take the time to reflect on how you are feeling and manage any stress or anxiety that may arise from being in an emotionally taxing situation.

Taking moments throughout the day to do activities that bring relaxation and joy can also help maintain peace of mind. In addition, it is essential to practice self-compassion; just as you would extend understanding and empathy towards the person with an addiction, it is equally important to show these same qualities towards yourself. Finally, ensuring you have emotional support from family and friends provides stability during challenging times.

10) Rely on a Support System:

A robust and reliable support system is essential in supporting someone with an addiction. This includes family, friends, therapists, clergy, teachers, and other professionals willing to provide help and understanding.

Reaching out to others can be beneficial in gaining new perspectives on the situation and receiving encouragement and comfort when needed. Additionally, staying connected with those in recovery or joining online forums or communities can also be beneficial. Overall, having a supportive network of people to turn to can make all the difference when it comes to providing meaningful support for someone with an addiction.

In conclusion, supporting someone with an addiction can be challenging and overwhelming. By following the above tips, however, it is possible to create a positive environment that encourages healing and recovery. Being understanding, patient, and open-minded is essential in providing practical support for your loved one. Most importantly, take the time to care for yourself during this process. In doing so, you will be better equipped to provide meaningful and beneficial support when needed.

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