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My Friend’s Loved One is Addicted – How Can I Help?
When Tim and Jeff met for lunch, Jeff could tell something was wrong with his friend. His heart broke when he learned Tim’s father was in a car accident over the weekend – an accident caused by his own drunk driving. Tim’s dad was physically okay, but lost his license for good and still wouldn’t admit his drinking problem.
Tim went on to tell Jeff about what it was like growing up with an alcoholic parent and Jeff was at a loss. He saw the pain in Tim’s eyes and heard the hurt in his voice. He desperately wanted to take away Tim’s pain, but how?
Vicky put her arms around her best friend and literally gave her a shoulder to cry on. Debbie just discovered her husband was hooked on drugs and had blown all of their savings. She suspected something was going on, but was blindsided by this turn of events. As Debbie sobbed in her arms, Vicky’s tears joined her friend’s. It was heart-wrenching. Vicky wanted to help her friend, but was there really anything she could do?
When a friend’s loved one is addicted, our hearts ache for them. We want to help. In these situations, it’s important to understand what we should, can and can’t do.
What You Should Do
Consider your friend’s personality. What are their typical emotional needs? How do they generally cope with stressful situations? Keep these personal traits in mind. Since everyone is different, you can’t have a one-size-fits-all formula.
You must remember your friend isn’t you. Approaching their struggles by helping them in a way you would want to be helped isn’t appropriate. You have to approach the situation with consideration of how they are best helped, based on their psychological make-up.
The most important thing you can do is listen and offer support. Let them know you’re there any time they want to talk about their fears, concerns, disappointments…or anything else. Reassure them the things they share with you will be kept confidential.
If you know your friend’s an introvert, you may need to draw them out a bit so they’re comfortable opening up. If you know your friend is most comfortable sharing while at home, make an effort to visit them there. If you know they typically isolate themselves when faced with something difficult, encourage them to go out with friends and family. The goal is to tailor your support in a way that gets through to them when they need it most.
What You Can Do
Often, there are tangible, practical ways you can help. While your friend is dealing with a loved one’s addiction, you can offer support by:
- Babysitting children while they attend counseling/support groups
- Preparing meals
- Educating yourself about substance abuse, getting a better understanding of their situation
- Offering to run errands
- Treating your friend to a day of fun (think spa day or hiking)
What You Can’t Do
As much as you would love to, you can’t fix this problem for them. In the end, you can only offer support. You can’t always have the perfect advice. You can’t make their loved one stop using. You also can’t stop hurting for them. That’s why you must continue to offer love and support, providing the friendship that will help them make it through.
Additional Reading: When They Just Don’t Want Your Help…