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How to Help a Friend Get Help

Watching someone, you love struggle with the crippling symptoms of addiction can be one of the most aggravating and painful experiences to bear. To watch someone you used to know change right before your eyes into someone you’d never recognize, to feel distanced and disconnected, unsure and confused, and above all powerless in how to help; are all commonalities when in relation to someone struggling with alcohol or drug addiction. No matter how hard you try or how many resources you offer, it is always up to the individual who is struggling to accept help and make a change in their lives. It is important to remember that addiction is a disease, and those suffering from it are struggling with an illness.

When you love or care for someone, it is terrifying to feel like you cannot protect or save them, but here are a few things we suggest doing when trying to help a friend get help.

1.) Be Honest

In watching your friend or loved one struggle, it may be difficult to put into words exactly how you feel or what you are witnessing or experiencing. There may be a wide array of emotions that you feel, ranging from empathy and compassion to anger and frustration. It is important, to be honest in what you are noticing and how the other person’s actions are impacting you and your relationship with them. The goal is not to put the blame on your friend but rather to make them aware that you see them, your relationship is important to them, and that you want to help. If your friend is willing, it could be a good idea to set aside some time in a safe and comfortable space and let them know that you notice they are struggling and name the behaviors that you see. It is also ok to let them know how you are feeling. We recommend using the I statement format, which goes like this: I feel this emotion when situation or experience and what I would like is.

Goal/Resolution Solution: In this conversation, it is likely that you may receive pushback, regret, false promises being made, or just straight-up denial. Either way, you are doing your part in what you can to bring a sense of honestly into the relationship. Although your initial conversation may not go exactly the way you want it to, you are allowing the addict in your life a chance at taking responsibility and accountability, which are vital steps to recovery.

Stage an Intervention
Be Honest

2.) Stage an Intervention

An intervention is a meeting to discuss your concerns about a loved one’s drinking or substance using problems and offer them help. Interventions offer family, friends, and sometimes even employers an opportunity to tell an individual how their misuse of substances has negatively been impacting their lives. According to the Association of Intervention Specialists, 90% of interventions succeed at getting a person into treatment. Interventions can take a lot of planning and teamwork but here are some steps to help get you started

  1. Meet up with the support system: Meet with the people who are concerned about your loved one. Discuss everyone’s comfortable level of participation and begin to make a plan
  2. Find an Experienced Professional: You can ask for a referral for an interventionist from a doctor, therapist, or treatment center or by utilizing: An addiction professional, psychologist, Mental Health Counselor, Social Worker, or Certified Interventionist
  3. Work With Your Intervention Team: As you continue to plan for the intervention, the team, made up of the professional and 4-6 family members and friends, will meet to prepare and discuss things like when and where the intervention will be, what each person will say, what types of treatment will be offered, and what consequences will be if they refuse to get treatment
  4. Hold The Intervention: Have your loved one come to the agreed-upon location without revealing the reason and being to calmy share your concerns
  5. Follow Through: After the intervention is done, if your loved one has decided to accept help, keep up with their progress. If they have not, hold strong to the boundaries and consequences you set during the intervention.

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3.) Set Healthy Boundaries

Individuals struggling with an alcohol or substance abuse disorder often are exhibiting chaotic, unstable, and reckless behaviors. It is important to set hard boundaries with your loved ones to keep both you and them safe. Letting your loved ones know in a clear way that you cannot support them in their current lifestyle is extremely important to get them closer to accept help. Sometimes these boundaries are things like: “I cannot give you money anymore, You cannot stay here unless you get sober, I cannot pick you up unless you are willing to go to treatment, or I can’t be in this relationship until you are willing to get help.” Hard boundaries can feel scary to set, especially when you are worried about the safety of your loved ones. But it is important to not enable them further into dependence upon you for living in their unhealthy patterns

4.) Assist them in finding a Treatment Provider

When your loved one is ready to go to treatment, they may struggle to take the next steps to get them to where they need to be. Taking the time to do some research online about local programs and providers and helping them make some phone calls can be a powerful way to help get your friend the help they need. In initial intake calls, treatment providers often want to know things like, what the individual has been using, their previous medical history, and their financial situation to cover the cost of their treatment. Helping your friend or loved one provide this information over the phone will help alleviate the dress and fear of taking the next step towards recovery.

5.) Compassion and Empowerment

Although it may be difficult at times, meeting your loved one with compassion and empathy is key. Oftentimes frustration, anger, and resentment make individuals feel guilt and shame, and they will use these emotions as an excuse to continue their unhealthy behaviors. It can also be helpful to speak about recovery as an empowering process, reminding the individual that they are not lesser than because they have the disease of addiction. Oftentimes individuals who are struggling with chemical dependency are experiencing feelings of loneliness, disconnect, and isolation. Reminding your friend or family member that they are loved and not alone in this journey may make it easier for them to be willing to step away from their unhealthy lifestyle.

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