Addiction – supporting someone

Key points about supporting someone with an addiction

  • If a family member, friend or other significant person in your life is struggling with an alcohol, drug, gambling or other kind of addiction it can be difficult and heart-breaking to watch and deal with.
  • It can also have a negative impact on your life.
  • Find out how you can support them without compromising your own wellbeing.




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1. Educate yourself

Learn as much as you can about the addiction. The more you know, the easier it is to understand what’s going on, what factors are at play and how you can support them in a healthy way.

2. Talk to the person

Sit down and have a one-on-one talk about your concerns. Explain your thoughts and feelings and the effect their behaviour is having. Try not to be confrontational or angry as this may put them on the defensive. If a one-on-one talk doesn’t work, you could organise family members and friends to get together to talk to the person as a group. But for your own sake, be prepared for neither of these to get the results you seek.

3. Seek professional help

Counsellors, support groups, therapists and addiction specialists offer professional support and help for the person with the addiction and family members. They may need professional help to break their addiction and deal with other underlying issues, such as mental health issues or past traumas. You may also need professional help to deal with your own issues and what you have been through with that person.

4. Maintain boundaries

It’s important to maintain boundaries. It’s natural to want to rescue the person, but this is inadvisable. Ultimately, they have to come to an understanding themselves about the harm they’re doing and want to stop of their own accord in their own time. It’s not helpful to enable them by providing financial or other support that will allow them to continue their addiction. It’s okay to draw a line in the sand and say “no”.

5. Look after yourself

Under these circumstances, you might forget about your own wellbeing. Remember to put your own physical and mental wellbeing first. Make sure you’re eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep and carrying on with your normal routines.

6. Keep your expectations realistic

Don’t expect the addicted person to sort everything out overnight or in a short timeframe. Recovery from an addiction is a long, ongoing process that can last a lifetime. Addicts relapse, so it’s often not an easy road to recovery.

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