Choosing to help a friend living with addiction is a noble act, but one with potentially high risks to both you and your friend if done improperly. Adequately preparing yourself for the kind of experience you might have while providing your support is important. So, today, let’s break down efforts to help a friend with addiction into eight bite-sized steps as you get started.
Helping a friend with addiction starts with recognizing how adequately preparing for the process of discussing addiction and facilitating any choice for treatment relies on educating yourself and taking steps to ensure your own self-care. The support offered should be confidential and unconditional with the expectation it may take multiple offers before a friend living with a substance use disorder accepts your help. Determining what role you are willing to play in their treatment and recovery, should they choose to begin inpatient or outpatient treatment, is also helpful.
8 Small Steps to Helping a Friend with Addiction
1. Assess your needs first.
It might seem intuitive to put your focus on how you can help a friend with addiction first, but your focus once choosing to help should be placed on yourself. Your emotional, mental, and physical well-being are valuable elements of your support and should be acknowledged. If you haven’t helped a friend with drug addiction before, you will be unfamiliar with how you respond emotionally and physically to the challenges, for example.
2. Offer support confidentially.
Your aim in offering support is assuring your friend you can be trusted with sensitive information. Addiction is a private matter and your involvement should always respect your friend’s privacy. Support offered conditionally with the threat of compromising the confidential exchanges you’re having with your friend if they don’t make certain choices can disrupt any progress you’re helping them make.
3. Plan to make multiple offers to give them help.
Your sincere concern about the impact of addiction on a friend’s health, work, and relationships may not lead instantly to the results you want. When a first offer fails, consider what might change about your timing, the message, and the circumstances involved . Each offer is an act of help, whether it’s accepted by your friend or not.
4. Present help in the form of choices.
Your offer of help can be simply showing them the choices they have available to make and how those choices can help or harm them. Ultimately, it’s their choice to seek recovery. Your help can be seen as a way to facilitate them making the choice that’s right for them and one they’re willing to commit to right now.
5. Listen to what they say about their own addiction.
Your friend may be willing to share what factors contribute to their substance use disorder. As a supportive friend, your role can involve giving them a safe place to share issues and complaints without judgment. It may be the first time they openly share what’s been contributing to their behavior and it can be beneficial for them to identify these elements of their life on their own.
6. Determine what involvement you are willing to have in their treatment.
Your interest in being involved during the course of their treatment does not mean you will be automatically welcomed. It’s a boundary for you to recognize for yourself, and if the invitation comes from your friend to support them through treatment, you will have prepared yourself to accept it.
7. Research treatment options independently.
Learn what addiction resources are available in your area. If you reach a point where offering or discussing this information with your friend becomes possible, you will have been able to take time to process the information yourself and answer some relevant questions they might have.
8. Accept you can do no more than your best.
If you have made the efforts to help out of genuine concern for your friend and honored that intention each step of the way, you have done everything you can to help. The responsibility to accept that help and begin treatment then becomes your friend’s. It’s an unrealistic expectation to feel you are in charge of the process of getting them help. You’re only facilitating the process.
Hannah’s House is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561.841.1272.