5 Ways To Help An Addicted Loved One
Often when we are confronted with a loved one suffering from addiction we feel helpless and frustrated. But there ARE things that are proven to help. Broadly, these things fall under the category of intervention. The word intervention has become synonymous with confrontation. A style that seems as overwhelming as the addiction itself. None of these things, however are unpleasant and emotionally draining like you might imagine them to be. Instead, they can leave both you and your loved one feeling better about yourselves and each other. Always do these things when they are sober. It is an exercise in futility to do them when they are drunk or otherwise impaired.
1. Tell them how much you care about them. Don't qualify it, or use it as a segue into "but, you need help." Keep it straight, simple and to the point. People who have addiction progressively lose a sense of self-esteem. As that happens, they turn more and more to their substance as an artificial substitute for a relationship with people to 'soothe' them and provide support. You need to compete with that to prevent them from making that transition. Do it as often as possible.
2. Talk about their strengths. Especially those things that are characteristics as opposed to talents or skills.Cite specific examples of when those characteristics have shown through in their actions.The more an addict is reminded of what is right about them, the more they question why they are allowing themselves to become more ill through compulsive behavior with a drug. This creates what psychologists call dissonance- a clash between what they are and what they are doing. Continue to cite examples as they occur to reinforce and grow the dissonance.
3. Ask them what they don't like about the use of substances-the down side. Don't suggest things or ask in a judgemental tone. After you have done that one time, then zero in on the most recent incident and ask what they didn't like about that episode. Do that as often as possible with a tone of concerned curiosity. Avoid sounding impatient or 'leading'. When you find them repeating something they have said before they don't like; say something like "so, that happened again?" or "It seems that happens a lot to you based on what you've told me."
4. After a number of times of getting them to relate some of the bad things/feelings they have about incidences, use what is called "strength confrontation" Statements like "I know you are stronger than you've been acting in these situations" or "I think you are too smart to let this take you down." Immediately cite examples of their positive characteristics again, when you have seen those things displayed.
5. When you have been through a few episodes of strength confrontation with them start adding comments like " You know why I think you're gonna get help for this issue? Because you have always been (smart, strong, perceptive) enough to face things. That's why. I've got faith in you and I love you."
Re-read the above and ask yourself this: What are they going to say? "No... I'm too stupid, weak or blind?" You know your addict, how likely would that be?
Michael O'Neal LCDC-ADC III is the Founder and Director of DayRise. He previously served as the Family Program Director at Summer Sky Treatment Center.