Do you have a friend with an unhealthy addiction that you’re worried about? It could be anything from over-eating to gambling to getting involved with hard drugs. Whatever the case, your instinct is probably telling you to help them – and indeed you should. However, knowing how to help a friend or family member in need isn’t always easy, especially if they’re not coming to you for help. For anyone that has found themselves in such a predicament, here are the steps that you should take.
Find evidence of the signs
An addiction isn’t always obvious. When it comes to substance abuse, there are usually certain signs of a problem to look out for. In some cases you may be able to find greater evidence to use. If someone keeps getting into fights when drunk, you should make a note of the number of times and then use this when approaching them.
Confront them about it
In order to help someone you have to confront them and make them realise that they have an unhealthy habit. A lot of people aren’t willing to admit to a problem – they may get defensive or try to change the subject. You can stop them reacting like this by not being provocative or accusational and instead emphasising the fact that you want to help. State the evidence of why you think they have an addiction (e.g. continuously skipping work or school, spending a lot of time on their own) but avoid moral judgements. In other words, don’t come out straight and say ‘I think you’re a drug addict’ but rather ‘you’ve been skipping work a lot recently and not looking yourself. Did you want to talk about it?’.
Use group intervention
If confronting them one-on-one isn’t having any impact, it may be time to move to group intervention. If other people share the same feelings as you, it should be enough to solidify your opinion that there is problem. Try to all talk to the person first one-on-one. Next all group up and each weigh in your concerns. At all points make the person feel like you are there to help, not to alienate them or humiliate them.
Recommend professional help
You may wish to recommend specialist counselling. Research options and then approach your friend with what you’ve found. The fact you think they need professional help may bring the scale of your concern home and make them finally admit to a problem. Volunteer to go with them to a counselling session if you think that it will help. There are many group counselling sessions out there that people may find to be more beneficial.
As much as the person recovering needs to stay strong, so do you. You need to show that you’re there for them through thick and thin. If they start to get better but then give into their urges and regress, some tough love may need to be required to get them through. They may try to push you away, but you should not stay strong and stand your ground.
Help them find a healthy obsession
Quite often, helping someone to find a positive addiction as a replacement can help act as a distraction and get them through. This could be exercise, a new hobby or a new interest. A great way of getting them to swap out their negative addiction for this positive addiction could be to take up that hobby with them. If you’ve been meaning to start going to the gym or go jogging, you could both do it together. Alternatively, you could support them to follow an aspiration that they’ve been talking about for a long time.