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11 Vital Steps to Helping an Addict

It can take an addict years to recognize that their addiction is a problem and choose to seek help. However, when that day comes, being able to quickly, and decisively, offer effective support is essential in helping your addicted loved one begin recovery. In order to offer the right support when your loved one is ready, there are certain steps you should take beforehand.

3 Steps You Can Take as a Family Member

If a family member suffers from addiction, you may be in an unique position to assist them when they are ready for rehab. Your support throughout the process can improve their chances of success. However, in order to offer the support they need, you have to be ready yourself. Here are some steps you can take to prepare.

1. Get support for yourself

Loving a person with addiction can be painful and difficult. Often, spouses leave, children walk away, and loved ones stop communicating with the addicted family member. Trauma of addiction can affect the whole family causing various difficulties personally, emotionally, and financially.

Dealing with the behaviors of a person with addiction as well as your own feelings toward their addiction, is a necessary first step in getting ready to support them when they are ready for rehab. Finding support for yourself now can help.

Support is available in many places. Organizations such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anonoffer 12-step support programs for family members of Alcoholics and Drug addicts, respectively. These groups help members to identify, work through, and overcome the challenges they face from loving a person with addiction.

Having a plan in place is important even without an intervention because it allows you to quickly move your family member into treatment.

Other resources available to families include clergy, counseling, addiction professionals, social workers, and mental health professionals who can help support you as you work to support your loved one.

2. Give up unhealthy roles

Families often take up unhealthy structures in response to a loved one's addiction. There are 6 primary dysfunctional family roles your family may experience:

  • Hero
  • Scapegoat
  • Addict
  • Mascot
  • Caretaker/Enabler
  • Lost Child

Whether you take on the role of the enabler who protects and supports the addict in their addiction; the scapegoat´┐Ż' who acts out in anger because of the addict's behavior; or another unhealthy role, you are participating in a family structure that is likely damaging to you and your family.

Identifying dysfunctional family roles and learning new ways of coping with your loved one's addiction is the only way to prepare yourself to support them in a healthy manner both now and when they are ready to pursue recovery.

3. Prepare a treatment plan

Once your loved one agrees to seek treatment for their addiction, you may only have a short window of time in which to act before their emotions, substance dependence, or fears about withdrawal and rehab convince them to change their mind.

Once your loved one agrees to seek treatment for their addiction, you may only have a short window of time in which to act before their emotions, substance dependence, or fears about withdrawal and rehab convince them to change their mind.

You may not be able to gain entry for your loved one into a treatment program without a specific start date. However, you can take the following steps to make the process shorter and easier:

  1. Identify a treatment program that will work for your loved one
  2. Talk about your situation with the addiction counselor
  3. Gather information about the program, entry requirements, etc.
  4. Know where the nearest detox facility is
  5. Pack a suitcase for your loved one
  6. Have a plan for transportation
  7. Keep communication open.

It can be easy to lose contact with a person with addiction. Negative behaviors, violent outbursts, obsession with addiction, and more often drive away spouses, children, family members, and friends. However, the only way you can be available to support an addict is to remain in contact with them so they know they can reach out to you when they are ready.

Remaining in contact does not mean accepting your loved one's behavior or even having them in your home. It does mean making sure they know that you are there to support them when they are ready to pursue rehab, that you love them, and that you see past their addiction to who they are as people.

3 Steps you can take as a friend

Watching a friend succumb to addiction can be a painful and traumatic experience. However, your presence, love, and support may be just what they need to successfully complete rehab, especially if they lack family to help them. Here are a few steps you can take to prepare for the moment your friend decides to pursue recovery.

1. Educate yourself

The first step in successfully preparing to support your friend through recovery is to educate yourself on addiction, recovery, and the support your friend may require. You will want to become familiar with all of these topics:

  • Signs of addiction
  • The physical aspects of addiction
  • The psychological aspects of addiction
  • The process of recovery
  • The importance of support during recovery
  • How to talk to an addict

There are many resources for learning about addiction and how to support your loved one. Here are a few trustworthy sources:

2. Collect a list of treatment resources

Once your friend is ready for recovery, you may need to act quickly to get them into treatment. This means that you must have a list of resources available to offer them. While you do not need to have a spot secured for them at a specific treatment facility, you may want to have the following prepared:

  • List of resources
  • Treatment center recommendations
  • Transportation plan
  • Packed suitcase
  • Detox facility information

Providing your friend with information about recovery and their options can help them to see that there is hope and act on that hope in a way that leads to recovery.

3. Remain honest and supportive

Your friend will need you, even if they do not yet acknowledge their addiction. However, being their friend does not mean that you have to enable, or support, their addiction. Pretending it does not exist, ignoring the negative repercussions of their addiction, covering for them when they miss work, act out, or lash out, providing them money for their addiction, or other enabling steps only makes it easier for them to avoid recovery.

Instead, be a honest and loving friend. This means having a calm and straightforward conversation with them about their addiction. It means reassuring them that you are concerned for their wellbeing and that you are available to help when they want it. It means being ready to provide encouragement, transportation, and support as they move through recovery. A friend can be a powerful force for change in an addict's life.

5 most important things you can do

Whether you are a friend or a family member, there are important steps you can take to help your loved one face their addiction. Here are the 5 most important things you can do to prepare yourself and your loved one for the day when they are ready to pursue treatment.

1. Make sure you are healthy yourself.

You can only support your loved one if you are mentally and emotionally healthy yourself. Make sure you have a network of educated support that can provide you with the counseling, education, and resources you need to get and maintain perspective on your loved one's addiction.

2. Be honest about your loved one's addiction

Never sugarcoat your loved one's addiction with them. While they may vehemently deny a problem, rationalize, gaslight, intellectualize, or shut down conversations about their problem, your calm and honest communication about the problem and the negative impacts it is having on you and them is the best way to help them understand that their addiction is a problem that requires treatment.

3. Communicate clearly and set boundaries

Often, you may need to set boundaries with your loved one. Spouses may need to separate. A child may need to move out of their parent's house. Minimizing the negative effects of your loved one's addiction on your life and ensuring that you are not enabling their addiction can lead to firm boundaries and consequences.

Setting boundaries is not always easy. However, it is a loving response to addiction because it encourages the addict to face the consequences of their addiction and encourages them to seek treatment. Be sure to provide your loved one a way back for when they are ready for treatment. Your love and unwavering support could be key in helping them achieve a lasting recovery.

4. Collect resources and a treatment plan

In order to help your loved one, you need to have access to as much information as you can. This means gathering resources and developing a treatment plan so you are ready to give your loved one reliable information when they are ready.

5. Let your loved one know you are there for them.

Your loved one needs to know that they are not alone, even in the midst of their addiction. While you may need to set boundaries to protect yourself and them, you can still make it clear that you are available to help them when they are ready for rehab.

Knowing that there is someone out there who loves them and sees them for who they are beyond their addiction, can be a powerful motivator that could one day help your loved one achieve healing.


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