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how to help an addict

How to Help an Addict Get Sober

Table of Contents

When you love someone who’s struggling with drugs or alcohol, you might spend a lot of your time wondering how to help. When it comes to how to help an addict get sober and go through the recovery process, there are a few things to remember.

First, you can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s exhausting to love someone with a drug or alcohol addiction and it can take a toll on you physically and mentally; self-care is essential. Find a support system that you can rely on to be healthy support to the person with a substance use disorder. You might seek help from friends and family members, or you could attend a support group like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. These are family group meetings, similar in some ways to 12-step programs.

We often hear that addiction is a family disease, and that’s true. Everyone feels the effects if someone has a substance use disorder. Family involvement can help someone take the steps necessary to get help, however. Beyond remembering to care for yourself, the following are some specific things to keep in mind regarding how to encourage them to participate in drug treatment programs.


Educate Yourself

If you’re spending a lot of time asking, “how do I help an addict,” our first bit of advice is to learn as much as you can. Learn about drug addiction, behaviors, how it affects someone, and what treatment might look like.

Explore how drugs and alcohol can affect the brain and behavior and create other mental health issues. As a chronic disease, anyone struggling with addiction requires proper evidence-based treatment. That treatment is also an ongoing process, and there are different stages of recovery. Learning is essential for a few different reasons regarding how to help someone with a drug abuse problem. 

First, as you learn more about the effects of addiction and that it’s a complex disease, you can stop blaming yourself if the person lashes out or stop feeling like somehow their habit is your fault. You’ll be able to see the situation for what it is, objectively. You can avoid becoming overly emotional yourself by learning about people with addictions, even when the addict might be reacting to you in a highly charged way.

Educating yourself about active substance abuse can also help when you are ready to receive help. You’ll have knowledge and information as they look for treatment options for recovering addicts. Finding information is one of the best ways to take a step back from the situation and see it for what it is, being realistic in what you can and can’t do.


Avoid Codependency

One of the worst things you can do if you love someone in addiction recovery is to foster codependency. A codependent relationship is a dynamic where you get a sense of value from being a caretaker. You might then enable someone you love to continue destructive behavior without negative consequences. 

Signs that you’re engaging in a codependent relationship include:

  • Your loved one gets upset if you try to set boundaries.
  • There’s a sense of responsibility you feel for other people’s problems.

If you recognize that you’re potentially in a codependent relationship, you must set boundaries and stick to them. You might also go to therapy yourself to learn more about why you engage in codependent patterns.

Someone with an addiction needs love and compassion, but they don’t need to be shielded from the consequences of their actions. Codependency leads to precisely that. If you’re someone who tends to fall into codependent patterns, you might make it your mission to keep your partner from feeling the total weight of the consequences of their behavior. That will end up prolonging how long it takes them to recognize a problem and seek help on their path to recovery. 


Do’s and Dont’s

We went over some of the things to keep in mind to help, and the following are some other general dos and don’ts that you might find helpful as you navigate this situation.

  • The concept of understanding ties back into why it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can; you start to realize that it is a disease affecting the brain and behavior to have more compassion. 
  • Rather than approaching a conversation that blames the person, talk about how the addiction affects you. Use “I” statements, such as “I feel like…” If you’re overly critical, it will cause the other person to either lash out or become extremely defensive.
  • Do come from a place of encouragement and positivity. Rather than talking about everything you feel the addicted person is doing wrong, take a hopeful tone about what you think the future could look like.
  • There are so many complex reasons your loved one might not want to get sober like they might feel afraid, they could worry about the stigma addiction brings, or they might be in denial.



Should You Do An Intervention?

When it comes to how to help an addict get sober, we tend to think that the immediate first step is always an intervention, but sometimes intervention isn’t necessary.  For example, your loved one might be ready to go to treatment just by having a one-on-one conversation.

  • In more challenging situations or when someone is deeply in denial about their drug or alcohol abuse, an intervention might be helpful.
  • During an intervention, you come together with others who care about the addict. You share how their addiction-related behaviors are affecting you.
  • You might work with a trained counselor who is a professional interventionist. 
  • Before attempting an intervention, you should have researched the treatment options and have a plan ready for your loved one to go to rehab. 
  • You should also look into things like health insurance coverage for professional treatment. 

An intervention also outlines consequences if the person doesn’t get help. For example, you might ask them to move out of the house until they’re ready to get treatment.


Preparing to Support Their Recovery

If your loved one does agree to go to treatment, it can be a great feeling; at the same time, be realistic with yourself because long-term recovery is lifelong. There’s no quick-fix for addiction, and you’ll likely be a support system for your loved ones long after they go to a treatment center.

Some of the specific things you can do to support a recovery journey include:

  • Accept your loved one without judgment. Try to be positive and uplifting rather than critical and negative. 
  • Triggers are challenging to manage after treatment, so promote a sober life as much as you can and try to have a drug-free environment. 
  • Be an active listener, you don’t always have to provide advice, Just listening is one of the best forms of support you can give.
  • Encourage an overall healthy lifestyle. Staying sober relies on having wholesome routines and good physical health, being physically active, and filling your time with productive and substance-free activities. You can be an ally for your loved one in these endeavors.

Finally, you also want to encourage and support your loved ones to keep up with their aftercare plan from the Opus Health team and participate in a support group. If you’d like to learn more about addiction treatment programs, we encourage you to reach out to our team at 855-953-1345 today. We are in this together, and help is just a phone call away. 

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