Addiction is traumatic, terrifying, and devastating. It often negatively alters people’s personalities and behaviors. It ruins families and careers. It could be lethal and requires imminent help. When timely therapy is received, recovery is possible, and the chances of relapse could be better addressed and monitored.
Where are we? Rock bottom.
In most cases, addicts do not seek treatment until they have hit rock bottom and lost nearly everything. While it is entirely up to the patient to get into rehab, their family and friends could encourage them to receive therapy sooner. This could prevent their disorder from getting more complicated, and their withdrawal symptoms may be less severe. Recovery could, in turn, be speedier and less traumatic.
Though you may recognize something is wrong with a beloved one, you may not know how to open the addiction topic. Do not blame yourself for that. This is undoubtedly an uncomfortable and touchy subject. Each day you postpone the conversation, though, only perpetuates the victim’s substance abuse disorder, allowing it to take a toll on them.
If you are nervous about talking to your friend about your suspicions, you may want to read through this curated list of tips:
1. Always hold sober discussions.
Having conversations about serious matters when one or both of you are under the influence is not optimal. While you may feel more inclined to talk about difficult subjects when slightly buzzed, full awareness and rational thinking should be prioritized. You should make sure that your friend is sober during your discussion, so no information is misconstrued. This will also increase the likelihood of them retaining most of the facts and remembering the main points you addressed.
2. Show compassion and love.
Addicts constantly face prejudice, judgment, and stigma from society. They are also their biggest critics, so they already live in a destructive environment. That is why you should not accuse them of any wrongdoing. Instead, you should empathize with their situation and show them, unconditional love. They often feel worthless and severely depressed, so you should avoid amplifying and feeding negative emotions. Hold their hand, give them a hug, and offer them words of understanding and appreciation, so they remember their self-value.
3. Shift the attention to the behavior.
Avoid victim-blaming or suggesting that something is wrong with your friend. The focus of your conversation should be placed on the actions and behaviors, not on the person. Do not say things like “You are irresponsible, and you hurt the people you love.” Replace these words with “I have noticed that you missed your appointments, and your mom was nervous about that.”
This is more likely to get through their brain, as their attention is now placed on what they have done, instead of who they are perceived as. This also offers a better opportunity for improvement, as actions are more tangible than concepts.
4. Set low or no expectations.
Before you start the discussion, take the time to center your thoughts. Understand that the situation is complex, and recovery is a lifelong process. Go in with an open heart and mind. Do not expect any particular outcomes.
You may get disappointed if your friend is irresponsive to the subject, or blatantly denies her addiction. Do not take it personally. Remember that they are suffering, and their state of being is altered by the substances. They will move at their own pace, regardless of your expectations, so for your own sake, you should either lower them or, even better, completely drop them.
5. Encourage treatment and remain present for it.
Whether your loved one is ready to commit to therapy or not, you should maintain the discussion. While they may be opposed to the idea at first, after showing them positive examples and not shaming or blaming them, they may become keener, and eventually, they may decide to give the treatment a go. Along the way, you should remain present and hold their hand when they need it the most. Having a strong support system makes recovery more manageable and increases the addict’s level of commitment.
If your friend is expressing interest in receiving therapy, you could help them discover suitable options. Start with a Google search for your local area, e.g. “Drug addiction treatment in Nashville, TN.” Help them get in touch with their top choices and support them along the way. Make any necessary phone calls for them and show up for their appointments. Once they get admitted, visit them as often as you can, and support them continuously and unconditionally.