What Do I Do for a Friend who is Struggling with Addiction?

What Do I Do for a Friend who is Struggling with Addiction?

“What do I do for a friend who is struggling with addiction?”
“What do I do for a friend whose child is struggling with addiction?”

These are two of the most common questions asked to us, and we often suggest (among other things) that people refer the friend to someone with direct experience if they have none themselves, but this doesn’t quite portray the whole story. Luckily, there are a few things any good friend can do, and although the specific actions change with each situation, there are thematically linked elements in each case.

  • Acknowledge your limits:
    • This may seem like an odd place to start, but it is one of the most important steps in helping other people. One has to come to grips with the fact that they are limited and this actually gives them more leverage in utilizing their strengths while outsourcing their limitations. The average individual isn’t equipped to handle most of the problems surrounding addiction; as unfortunate as this may be, this self-honest assessment allows us to focus on what one is good at, while simultaneously humbly outsourcing their weaknesses. It’s ok if you’re not equipped to handle some or even all of the problems at hand, and this honest assessment of yourself will allow you to seek out the right sources in order to tackle the problems at hand.
  • Give up some of the control:
    • When people ask for advice, or even if you feel called to help out a friend, this doesn’t mean that you need to take control of the entire process and therefore the burden of someone else’s process. This is the next step after one acknowledges their limits because it’s essential to have the humility to be able to surrender to the solutions provided by those who are equipped to handle the problem at hand. The other benefit of giving up some of the control is that we can sustain our internal peace while helping someone else out at the same time.
  • Refer to someone with experience:
    • Outsourcing to an experienced third party is essential to be able to help out a friend who is struggling with addiction, or anything at all. Once you acknowledge your limits and give up some of the control, it’ll be easy to see that you’re not a therapist, psychiatrist, spiritual counselor, recovery expert and a doctor; the next natural step is to refer out to trusted, experienced people who can help solve the problem at hand. It’s ok if you don’t know to refer out to, simply think about the people who know who have gone through addiction and earned recovery, then utilize them as a source to find out what worked for them.
  • Be willing to help, and be available:
    • One of the most powerful ways to help out a friend in need is to simply be available and willing to help. The offering of “call me if you need anything” and let me know if there’s anything I can do to help” really do go a long way. It opens the door for further communication in a loving way that helps increase the relationship you have with that person. Don’t limit these offerings to just your close friends, if you have experience with the issue be available to help anyone who’s struggling, and this will positively impact your self-esteem and help facilitate a greater meaning in life.
  • Set clear boundaries:
    • Being willing and available doesn’t mean that you need to overextend yourself. This is why it’s essential that we set clear boundaries with those people that we are helping, ultimately to help sustain our peace of mind. Overextending yourself leads to resentment and frustration, and it’s not fair to yourself to extend in a way that’s inevitably a detriment to your well-being. There are Ala-non groups all over the US, and this program helps empower those who are personally affected by other’s addictions and guides them in their recovery while building up a support group around them.

The above-listed steps are intended to help you help others, but what about helping yourself? Below are the steps we suggest taking in order to take care of yourself while being of service to others. This is essential to helping others because we do better work when we are taken care of, and these simple steps are designed to help facilitate, and sustain your well-being.

  • Take care of yourself:
    • Self-care is something that differs from person to person, so we’ll keep it a little broad. What is important, however, is that you’re taking care of yourself. Self-care is and should remain a priority while we extend ourselves in the service of others. If you don’t upkeep on your self-care, you’ll inevitably be frustrated and uninspired to continue fighting the good fight.
  • Do your homework:
    • More often than not, the average person is uninformed about addiction, and therefore about recovery. This misunderstanding gets in the way of the compassion one can have for someone who is struggling because they are uninformed, or misinformed about the subject of addiction. Read the Big Book even if you’re not an alcoholic, and utilize trusted resources to learn about what addiction is. As a recognized disease by the AMA, there are countless accredited sources to learn about substance use disorder, and doing your homework on the issue will help you understand, and emphasize with one who is afflicted.
  • Have faith in those who referred out to.
    • This will be hard to do if you don’t have trusted resources to utilize in an effort to outsource what’s necessary to help someone recover. So once you have trusted third parties to utilize, have a little faith in the fact that they are skilled at what they do. This helps ease the worry of things being directly out of your hands because you trust the people that you’ve utilized to tackle the problem of addiction for your friend or their loved one.
  • Set an example:
    • Living your life in a way that inspires others is essential to improve both your self-esteem and the impact you have on others. This can range in a variety of activities, but the most important thing is to uphold a system of tried and true values. Being honest, of service, open-minded, and willing are excellent places to start, but living with the mindfulness that your actions directly impact those that are around you are going to put your life into a bigger perspective and increase the impact you have in your community.
  • Get Involved:
    • We wake up every day with a choice: stand on the sideline, or get in the game. Once we have the toolkit to tackle the problem of addiction, we have to acknowledge that were capable of creating a valuable positive impact on our community at large. Even if you haven’t gone through addiction yourself, if you have the resources at your disposal to get involved, then you will inevitably save a life from this disease if you utilize the experience and contacts that you have to the benefit of others.

Please continue to reach out to us for support when you believe it’s necessary. We are happy to help you, a friend, or a loved one who is struggling with addiction.

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