If you have a friend or family member who is struggling with addiction, it can be difficult to relate to him or her if you yourself have never faced that struggle. You might feel caught in a situation where you strongly desire to help your loved one but simply don’t know how. If this describes you, here are some ways to better relate to and support a loved one facing addiction.
Learn about the addiction.
Doing your best to educate yourself first about the substance that your loved one is addicted to—and what typically accompanies addiction to that substance—will not only better prepare you to help your loved one but will also be an outward expression of how much you care. Do your best to understand the triggers that might be associated with your loved one’s substance use, what side effects are involved, and what could be at stake when it comes to your loved one’s health.
Talk to a friend with similar experience.
Do you happen to have a friend who might be recovering from addiction, and therefore might be able to share some insight on what your loved one might be experiencing? Reach out to them. If you feel comfortable, ask your friend if he or she has any insights on what your loved one needs most right now, and what you might be able to do to help. Chances are your friend will be more than happy to share his or her past experiences and struggles with addiction in the interest of helping someone else overcome addiction. Moreover, asking your recovering friend for advice could help him or her feel needed at a time when he or she might be having difficulties finding self-esteem or confidence again.
Remember that you can help in other ways.
Just because you can’t relate to your loved one on the level of common experience, that doesn’t mean that you can’t play a vital role in your loved one’s recovery. While working with specialists and meeting with peers to overcome addiction is central to successful recovery, your loved one will also need you to fill roles that others simply can’t fill. Your loved one will need your moral support, a listening ear, and gentle reminders of your unconditional love for them. Remember your value as a close friend or family member, and realizing your desire to help will come naturally.