How to support an addict

Addiction is a serious condition. It is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior. There are many things that people can be addicted to, such as:

  • alcohol
  • tobacco
  • drugs
  • gambling
  • food consumption
  • sex.

People who have addictions need treatment. This may include rehabilitation, detoxification, therapy, recovery programs, or other forms of treatment. It is also important that those close to the addicted person provide support. This can be difficult, but there are things you can do to help your loved one.

The Road to Better Health

Here are some ways you can help an addict.

Learn more. Ask your doctor questions about your loved one’s health. Find out about addiction. The more you learn, the more you will understand the condition and be able to help.

Set limits. It’s crucial that you and your loved one have clear boundaries. This can help treat your addiction and prevent relapses. Limits also protect you from physical and emotional harm.

Avoid favoring an addict. When you make it possible for a person to be an addict, you allow him or her to relax or break the boundaries he or she has agreed to. Examples include lending them money, lying for them, getting them out of jail, and accepting if that person uses or abuses their addiction again. Favoring an addict is harmful to you, your loved one, and your relationship.

Avoid triggers. Be sensitive to the things that can trigger your loved one’s addiction and try to avoid them. For example, don’t drink alcohol or visit places where alcohol is prominent. For a food addiction, don’t schedule dinner at a free buffet.

Look and listen. Addicts may require more attention. Be there to listen and don’t judge your feelings. Watch for signs of abuse or relapse. However, don’t let them abuse this need or take advantage of your time; your needs remain important.

Stay calm. Supporting an addict can be difficult and frustrating. There are times when you may be angry with them. Try to express your feelings calmly and directly. Avoid raising your voice, threatening or judging them. Talk to them about their concerns and their health. Focus on the future, not the past.

Offer respect and praise. Just as it is difficult for you to support an addict, it can be very difficult for the addict to overcome addiction. Be respectful of the treatments your loved one chooses to do. For example, you may need to attend inpatient rehabilitation for a month or more. Or you may decide to join an evening support group. Insist on praising your commitment and any goals you achieve.

Try new things. Look for activities that you and your loved one can do to replace what you were addicted to. Examples may include exercise, cooking, painting, traveling, or meditating.

Things to Keep in Mind

You can encourage an addict to get treatment, but you can’t force it. In the end, it has to be your decision. You may recommend that your loved one see a doctor who will discuss his or her treatment options.

Keep in mind that for many addicts, recovery is a lifelong process. Things may get better over time, but a relapse is always possible. When supporting your loved one, don’t forget your own needs. You may also benefit from support or therapy. Talk to a doctor about how to get help for yourself, a child, or your family in general.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • How can I support an addict?
  • Are there certain things I shouldn’t do?
  • What should I do if my loved one has a relapse?
  • What should I do if my loved one becomes violent with himself or others?

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