The hardest part of learning that a loved one is ill is knowing that they
are alone in their pain. Nobody else can feel it for them; and this is
often the most troubling concept to bear when you care deeply for someone.
Addiction is no different — you can’t feel or understand why they have
become dependent on something that harms them and shunned the love and
support that exists around them.
The first step to helping someone on the road to recovery from addiction is
that same love and support. Let them know it was always there, but it is
available now more than ever to help light the way out of the darkness they
have become lost in.
Here is some practical advice endorsed by health services and drug
counselling organizations as to how you can begin to help someone you love
affected by addiction.
When you love someone, it is necessary to intervene in self-destructive
behavior at the earliest possible opportunity. Do not, however, view it as
an “intervention” — at least not at first. Do not throw away their drugs,
alcohol or paraphernalia. This is highly confrontational and may even cause
health complications due to withdrawal. It could also place them in further
danger by causing them to go out in search of more drugs or money to buy
Compose yourself and be free from anger before you engage the person.
Having said this, you should be firm and honest about the consequences of
their actions, though never threatening.
Firstly, ensure that everyone is sober when the
conversation takes place. Your approach must be non-judgmental and
non-confrontational. Let them know that you are speaking from a place of
love, care and concern, and that your worries for their health have reached
a point where you can no longer ignore their behavior.
Do not be accusatory–make it clear that you know addiction is not a choice
but a disease. Assure them that you want to understand the underlying cause
of their substance abuse and support them to get help to address this.
Reinforce your beliefs with facts and honesty about their specific
behaviors, and how you know about them, rather than accusations. Rather
than saying “I think you are an addict,” say “I’m finding your behavior
scary and upsetting and I have seen evidence of drug paraphernalia around
Know that the person may be defensive, hostile and even abusive when you
first raise the issue. This is the worst-case scenario, many will just be
shocked to be confronted but willing to have a conversation.
Steeling yourself for all possible outcomes is advised. This is why you
should go fully prepared: do some research into different methods of
recovery that might suit the person so you can discuss possible courses of
After broaching the idea of firstly consulting with your family doctor,
explore other options with them. Start with cognitive behavioral therapy or
group therapy, before considering rehab, inpatient facilities, recovery centers, sober
houses, and more long-term solutions, depending on the extent and nature of