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Tips For Helping a Struggling Addict

Posted on 01/07/20: Addiction Recovery

Helping someone who is struggling with addiction is no easy feat. Addiction can turn someone into the worst version of themselves, causing them to lash out at those they love. If you are reading this article in hopes that it will help you strengthen your support for someone who is battling addiction, know that you are an amazing person. Sticking by someone who is dealing with or even recovering from this disease is not easy, and you’ve probably had many instances where you’ve felt like giving up. But you’re here, and we want to help. Here are some tips for helping a struggling addict during and after addiction recovery. 

1. Identify whether or not they are actually struggling with addiction.

Before you take steps to address an addiction issue, you want to make sure that you have solid grounds for believing that the person in question is actually suffering from addiction and not a separate mental health concern. The truth is, the person may just be going through a rough time, not necessarily abusing substances. Here are some things to look out for:

They start to isolate themselves. A person who is struggling with addiction will likely become more secretive and distant in an attempt to hide the problem from friends and family. If you notice your loved one isn’t around as often as they used to be, spend a lot of time hidden away in their room, or hanging around a new/different crowd than they usually do, you may want to check-in and see what’s up. 

They experience mood swings. Substances can cause physical changes to the body chemistry, which may manifest itself in erratic, unpredictable behavior. Your loved one may be having sudden outbursts or shifting rapidly between positive and negative moods.

Valuables begin disappearing from around the home. Drug habits get expensive, and it can be difficult to sustain them financially. But someone who is truly in the clutches of addiction is willing to do things that they normally wouldn’t, just to feed their addiction. Unfortunately, this may include stealing from their own friends and family members. 

Rapid weight changes. Substance abuse most often leads to weight loss, but it could result in weight gain as well. Loss of appetite is common with drugs like methamphetamines and nicotine, while weight gain is more common in those with alcohol dependence. 

Changes in energy levels. Drugs can also cause a person to become fatigued more easily, or abnormally hyperactive.

Changes in sleeping patterns. Changes in sleeping patterns are another subtle sign that something could be up. They also may be staying out later than usual, or perhaps not coming home until the next day. Many drugs can cause individuals to become unusually sleepy or uncharacteristically hyperactive to the point where sleeping is near impossible.

Disinterest in hobbies and passions that once excited them. Have you noticed that your loved one no longer partakes in activities that they once enjoyed? Have they adopted an apathetic attitude about previous hobbies? Something might be wrong if this is the case. 

Shirking responsibilities. If a person starts to neglect basic responsibilities that they were once consistently on top of, this is usually a big sign that they are struggling with something. They may have lost the willpower to perform basic tasks, or perhaps have even shifted their focus entirely to acquiring more of their preferred substance. 

Changes in mannerisms. Have you noticed trembling hands? Twitchiness? Hunched shoulders? Etc. Any changes in mannerisms or body language could be indicative of a deeper issue.

Overall change in behavior and attitude. Sudden changes in behavior and attitude, especially negative ones, are usually signs of a problem. Whether it’s due to addiction or not, it never hurts to check in to make sure everything is okay.

2. Have a conversation with them.

So, you suspect that someone you love is struggling with addiction. How can you approach the topic in a non-threatening, effective manner? 

First, don’t go in with lofty expectations. Simply expressing concern one time is rarely enough to convince a person to willingly enter treatment. It’s more likely that the person will go into defense mode, and may even raise their voice and express anger. They may even adamantly deny that they have a problem, which can be a major roadblock. This is why your focus should be to first check-in and see how they are doing, opening the floor to deeper communication without coming off as accusatory. Start Your Recovery suggests opening the conversation in these ways:

  • I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.
  • I’ve noticed you’ve been acting differently lately, and I’m wondering how you’re doing.
  • I’ve been worried about you lately.
  • I’ve noticed you’ve been drinking a lot lately, and I’m wondering how you’re doing.
  • I’ve noticed you’ve been using [insert drug name], and I’m worried about you.

Depending on the person’s reactions to your opening lines, you may wish to probe a little further to get to the root of the issue. However, remember to continue keeping the conversation open and non-accusatory. Do not prescribe any thoughts or feelings onto the other person, simply try to ask questions, reflect, and show sympathy. Start Your Recovery suggests these ways of continuing the conversation:

  • When did you first start feeling like this?
  • Do you feel like you’re trying to escape or forget something?
  • Do you feel like your drug use/drinking is a problem?
  • Do you think you could go 24 hours without using drugs/drinking? A week?
  • What can I do to best support you right now?
  • Have you thought about getting help?

The person’s answers to these questions can help you get a better gauge of whether or not they are ready to accept help. Be prepared for the fact that they may not be ready to voluntarily enter treatment. The best thing to do in this situation is to incentivize them to at least go see a medical professional. Often times, hearing the truth from someone trustworthy like a doctor is more likely to get the person to realize there is a problem. When coming from a loved one, they may see it as an overreaction or attack. 

3. Stage an intervention.

If you are dealing with an addict in denial, an intervention may be in order. An intervention is a meticulously planned process in which family and friends of a person with an addiction gather at a pre-arranged date and time. They will then invite the addict to the gathering for the purpose of having a discussion about the consequences of their addiction. Usually, the addict does not know this is occurring until the moment they walk into the room. This is done in order to prevent them from avoiding the confrontation. Once everyone is settled, family and friends are encouraged to express their feelings and concerns surrounding the addict’s wellbeing. To learn more about how to stage an intervention, check out our recent article Staging an Intervention the Right Way.

4. Set boundaries for yourself.

When all else fails, you must simply step away and let the addict fall. This is the most heart-wrenching action one can take when watching a loved one become a victim of their own choosing. However, continuing to provide the addicted person with a warm bed, meals, money, emotional support, etc will only enable them to continue to be comfortable with their lifestyle. The more “help” you provide, the worse off they will be. It sounds counterproductive, but oftentimes a person with an addiction must be allowed to hit rock bottom to realize that a change must be made. 

So what do you do to set boundaries? First, let them know that you are setting boundaries because you care, and because of this you will no longer do anything to support their habit. They most likely will not believe you. They will accuse you of giving up on them, for being cruel. This will be painful, but know that it is part of the process. Let them know that you will be there for them when they are ready to make a change and get clean, but not before that happens. 

5. Be there for them.

This might sound obvious, but it’s the most important tip on this list. Keep in mind that “being there for them” doesn’t always mean making sure they are comfortable and taken care of. As we mentioned earlier, oftentimes it is in their best interest to let them hit rock bottom. However, this doesn’t mean you have to cut off contact with them. Make sure that they know that when they are ready to get help, you will do everything you can to make sure their treatment is successful. And during post-recovery, having you as a support system will be invaluable to them.

Encouraging a loved one to seek help may feel like a losing battle for a long time, but when they finally achieve sobriety, they will be glad that you were there for them every step of the way. The most important role you can play in this situation is to be a pair of ears and an open heart. They are going to need the support of those they love, regardless of where they are at in their recovery journey. 

If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact Sober Living of AZ now to get the help you need. Sober Living offers an acclaimed recovery environment that merges upscale and luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare. Call us now at 602-737-2458.

Content for Scottsdale Recovery Center and Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers created by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.

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