Struggling with an addiction is anything but easy, and, unfortunately, being a friend of someone struggling with addiction poses its own challenges. Addiction is a disease that impacts more than just the individual who is struggling. Often, substance use disorder (SUD) is referred to as a family disease because the condition leaves lingering effects on family members and friends.

If you have a friend who is struggling with addiction, there are several things you can do to help them and support their recovery. Below are three examples.

#1 Become educated about addiction and recovery.

One of the most important things you can do for your friend is to become educated about what addiction is. To take it one step further, learn about how an individual can recover from it. Many people do not understand that addiction is a chronic and complex disease of the brain. While an individual’s initial decision to try or use drugs may be voluntary, the brain will involuntarily compel the body to seek out substance use repeatedly after it is exposed. This is because substance use produces the utmost feelings of pleasure beyond what can be experienced naturally.

Additionally, many people neglect to understand that anyone can be at risk of developing an addiction. Some people may think that they are not at risk because their family members or parents have not struggled with addiction; however, this is false. There are genetic and environmental risk factors that can increase an individual’s vulnerability to developing an addiction.

Although addiction is complex and challenging to treat, recovery is possible. To recover, your friend will need patience and support from you. They must be reminded that recovery is a lifelong road that will inevitably include bumps and challenges along the way. As you become more educated about SUD, you will be better able to understand and support your friend on this journey.

#2 Find support for yourself.

The next thing you can do to support your friend’s recovery is to find support for yourself. Your research may lead you to learn that treatment and support are not only meant for those experiencing rock bottom. Similarly, treatment and support can be utilized as preventative measures. These ensure you do not find yourself on a similar path in the future.

There are a plethora of online and local in-person educational and support group opportunities for friends of individuals struggling with addiction and/or mental health disorders. These groups are meant to provide advice and feedback to family members and friends. Equipped as such, you can encourage treatment for your loved one. Similarly, support groups provide a safe space where you can learn to navigate conversations with your loved one. They can also bring awareness to possible unhealthy habits that you may be participating in.

It can be overwhelming to watch someone you love fall into patterns of recurrent or mindless substance use. However, it can be even more overwhelming to let your own substance use get out of control. This can happen as a result of trying to provide help without a proper support system or outlet.

#3 Encourage treatment.

Once you have become thoroughly educated about addiction and recovery, you may feel compelled to encourage treatment for your loved one. After all, addiction is a disease that requires professional treatment to recover from. On the other hand, social support is known to encourage treatment entry and increase engagement and the effectiveness of treatment overall.

Understand that everyone views treatment differently.

It is important to be cognizant of how your friend views substance use treatment. Unfortunately, due to years of stigma resulting from a lack of education, some people have grown up believing that receiving substance use treatment is a sign of weakness. Certain cultures may feel the same way as a general rule. If your friend has a negative view of treatment, suggesting it may not be the greatest initial approach.

A better way to navigate this scenario is to help your friend understand the severity of their problem without doing it for them. For example, you could try a heart-to-heart conversation with them and ask how and why their substance use began. Through discussion, people will often realize on their own that they use substances as an attempt to escape their problems or numb their mental distress. As you talk together, be willing to understand and avoid placing blame or judgment. If you have never struggled with substance use directly, you cannot fully understand what they are going through.

When you feel like it is the right time, you can offer to research different treatment options with your loved one. There are so many unique treatment opportunities available. As a starting point, help your friend get an initial therapy session to see how they respond to it.

Remember, coming to terms with the fact that one is struggling with substance use rarely happens overnight. You must be willing to practice compassion toward your loved one as they take on this new healing journey.

New Life Addiction Counseling and Mental Health Services understands the overwhelming emotions that can surface as a result of a friend’s chronic substance use. There is no question that addiction is a family disease that affects more than just the individual struggling. Often, close friends and family members may feel the effects of a loved one’s substance use so significantly that it interferes with their own ability to function normally. To learn more, call us today at (877) 929-2571