Finding out someone is battling addiction is never easy.
But discovering that it’s your best friend who’s struggling? It can be one of the hardest realizations of a person’s life.
Many times, those closest to the one battling addiction feel a lot of guilt. They may wonder if there was something they could have done to help prevent it; perhaps they feel responsible in some way, or guilty for not noticing sooner; maybe they feel entirely helpless and frustrated at not being able to do anything.
Luckily, that’s not entirely true — there are countless ways you can support your friend who is battling addiction and encourage them as they journey towards recovery.
Supporting your friend as they confront addiction
It’s never easy to see your loved one struggling, mentally and physically, with the negative effects of addiction. But you, as a friend, have a unique opportunity to help them in ways you possibly never considered. Even when it is challenging, seeking ways to love and support (and even simply be present) your friend can make a huge impact on their recovery process.
Talk to your friend
It can feel intimidating, but it’s important to talk with your friend and share your concerns. Consider something like, “I’ve noticed these habits/behaviors and wanted to see if you’re okay?” in order to prevent any form of defensiveness on their part. Let them share their story, if they want, and do not pass judgment on them or their actions. It’s more important that you meet them where they’re at instead of telling them the ways in which their behavior is wrong.
If the time is right, let your friend know you’re worried about their substance use, and ask if you could share some suggestions about seeking recovery. Provide your friend with information on various treatment programs, and let them know that you’ll take them to a treatment center right away if they’re willing to get help. Encourage them in the truth that asking for and accepting help is not weak — it’s the bravest thing they could do.
You may have a surprisingly productive conversation. Your friend may not have noticed any recent changes in their behavior, and may not have realized the impact their addiction is having on their loved ones. However, there’s a good chance your friend might not be receptive to the idea of addiction treatment. If they’re unwilling to get help, temporarily drop the issue, but let them know you’re still there if they need you.
Stay involved with their recovery
If your friend does decide to start treatment, you need to stay involved. Your help and support will help boost their chances of success and encourage them to continue even on the days that are extremely hard. Visit your friend whenever you can, and let them know you’re ready to help in any way.
Addiction is a chronic disease, so it’s crucial to maintain reasonable expectations regarding your friend’s recovery. Relapse is an ongoing risk, particularly during the first 90 days of sobriety. It doesn’t mean that your friend has failed or won’t ever recover – it just means they may need more time to work on their coping strategies and adjust to their new lifestyle. But this is where you can be a positive influence and instill in them the idea that one bad day does not mean failure: it’s simply a lesson learned.
Know when to let go
If your best friend is addicted, it’s natural to want to help them—but micromanaging their recovery isn’t the best way to do it. Learning how to accept responsibility for their actions is a key part of your friend’s addiction recovery, and ultimately, your friend will have to do the work themselves.
It’s also important to take care of yourself during this turbulent time. Boundaries are valuable in any relationship, but they’re essential when addiction is part of the equation. If you’re having trouble dealing with your friend’s addiction, don’t hesitate to seek some professional support for yourself as well.
Addiction can damage every aspect of a person’s life, and it’s not easy to watch a friend struggle with the disease. Keep in mind that your friend needs to be ready to get help—you can’t force a person to quit. The real work of recovery will be up to your friend, but your support can make a huge difference along the way.
Addiction recovery programs
If you have a friend battling an addiction, you can be a positive influence by recommending addiction treatment programs when your friend is ready for a lifestyle change. Real Recovery is designed to meet the needs of all clients, from those requiring regimented inpatient therapies to less intense outpatient treatment. Plus, with support groups for those close to the loved one in treatment, peace and freedom can be found by all.