How to help a struggling friend
For a drug addict, admitting they have a problem presents an enormous barrier, and in the vast majority of cases, they cannot get through this stage without help. Many organizations and medical centers have help available, but they cannot begin the process until the addict acknowledges the problem. It is at this time that the addict may need a friend (or several) to perform a drug abuse intervention.
The following is a five-point guide to performing this role:
- Commitment. Assisting a friend with a drug abuse problem will not be an easy task. If you decide to accept the responsibility, the first thing to remember is that it is a long-term commitment. If the addict decides to accept your help, you must be prepared to stay with them for the duration of the problem. Anything less could be damaging to their recovery and is not the sign of a true friend.
- Understanding the problem. Drug abuse is a medical disease just like any other illness, and this needs to be understood from the outset. Therefore, when you broach the subject with your friend, you should do so from a position of care, consideration and understanding, not one of judgment or blame. Your friend is not a bad person; it is the illness that is affecting their character and behavior.
- Communication. When talking to your friend about their addiction, it is essential that you choose a time when they are not under the influence, as this is when they will be at their most rational. Similarly, you should be sympathetic but factual in your approach, explaining how you see the addiction affecting your friend's family, work and social life. If they move past the denial stage and accept your help, either at the time or at some later date, then you help them to take the next step.
- Direction. Once you have your addicted friend's confidence and trust, your next task is to guide them in a direction that will provide an appropriate recovery program. You will need to discuss whether counseling or medical treatment, possibly including a period of rehabilitation, is most appropriate. However, it is essential to have researched the options prior to this discussion.
- Support and emotional strength. No one is perfect. There may be times during the recovery cycle when the addict gives way to temptation. If this occurs, you need to be there to provide them with support and emotional strength, not to chastise them for their failure. Talking the person through what went wrong and helping them to recover from such failures will be an important part of your role.
If you want to help a friend with an addiction problem, there are a number of organizations that can provide you, as their mentor, with guidance and assistance. These include the addict's physician and national organizations such as the Centre for Substance Abuse Treatment, Narcotics Anonymous, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the Rational Recovery system.
By Paul Lines