3 Steps for Supporting a Friend or Loved One Who Struggles With Addiction
Demi Lovato fans around the world were waiting anxiously after news broke on July 24 that the pop singer had Lovato had been hospitalized for an apparent heroin overdose. The singer has been open about her struggle with addiction, as well as her recent relapse after six years of sobriety. While fans of Lovato sent messages of support over social media, there were others who were critical of Lovato and seemed to blame her for her addiction.
Addiction is a complicated disease that has widespread impacts. As many communities around the country are dealing with the effects of the opioid crisis, a lot of people are probably seeing how painful addiction is. If you have a friend or family member who is struggling with an addiction, here are some ways you can be supportive of them.
educate yourself about addiction
There’s a lot of stigma surrounding addicts and addiction. Because addicts are painted as bad or weak people, many simply assume that whatever pain an addict goes through is their own fault. While the cycle of addiction can often lead addicts to behave in ways that hurt the people close to them, it is not the case that addicts are simply bad people who have made bad choices in life and should not be regarded with compassion. Addiction is a disease brought about by a combination of factors, and one that usually requires treatment.
The more you understand how addiction works and how it is effectively treated, the more helpful you can be to anyone in your life who may struggle with this widespread disease.
How to talk to a loved one about your concerns
Ivana Grahovac, who is Director of Advancement for Facing Addiction with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Use, tells Brit + Co that empathy us important when approaching loved ones with concerns.
“First is to always express how deeply one loves and cares for the person who may be struggling with an addiction, and to not come from an angry, accusatory place, but one of non-judgment and compassion and out of a desire to align with the person’s authentic self within that does not want to carry this burden in secret or isolation any longer,” she tells us.
When it comes to treatment, people with addictions may or may not be ready to get help. If a loved one does decide to seek treatment, Grahovac says there are many ways to offer support, including offering to visit if treatment is in-patient, attend support groups, and abstain from using substances like alcohol or drugs around the addict while they recover.
Grahovac struggled with a heroin addiction herself, and shared that when she was going through treatment for the sixth time, “my parents stressed to me: We will do whatever it takes to support and enable your healing and recovery, but we will immediately do whatever is necessary to disable your addiction, including taking away the keys to your car, not providing any financial support, etc.”
If an addict does not seek treatment, loved ones can “can continue to stress that their love is unconditional, and they will offer their help and support for the long-term whenever that person does acknowledge they need help,” Grahovac says.
don’t forget to take care of yourself
Addiction hurts not only the person who is addicted but other people in the addict’s life as well. Being close with someone who has an addiction can be very emotionally and even physically draining. Especially if a loved one is not currently seeking help or is in denial that they have a problem, it can be difficult to continue offering support. There may be times when you have to distance yourself from your loved one in order to take care of yourself.
Grahovic recommends securing a solid support system if you have a friend or family member who struggles with addiction. “Find a support system that you can be honest and vulnerable with, who you can lean on during the times of intense fear and uncertainty, people who will reach out to you to talk to you and provide a compassionate, non-judgmental listening ear,” she says. “Also, find a local support group of others who are in similar situations, so you can provide peer support to one another. And definitely find a therapist for yourself if possible.”
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(Images via Neilson Barnard + Michael Winter/Getty Images)